Exercise: Warming Up and Cooling Down
Have you ever been so excited to start a workout that you forgot to warm up first? You are not alone - one of the most common mistakes made in exercising is to skip the beginning stretching routine. Although warming up is essential to staying injury-free and getting the maximum results from physical activity, it is still viewed by some as an optional part of the workout. There are several reasons why this should never be the case, and why stretching is not only performed before you exercise.
Sudden shock to joints and muscles is never good. That is exactly what happens when you participate in any resistance based movement without the proper warm up. Since muscle fibers are smaller, they can easily tear when placed under stress, unless they are properly conditioned to absorb the resistance and benefit from it. How do you prepare your muscles and joints? The easiest way is to do simple, yet effective stretching exercises. Depending on the goals of your workout or activity, make sure that any stretching involves all of the muscles you will be using. For example, reach above your head and extend your arms. Or, bring your legs up to your body and hold the position. These movements are quick and painless, and they can protect you from unnecessary setbacks. Besides providing flexibility to your joints, warming up should also focus on improving your blood flow. When blood starts to increase around your muscles, they are physically prepared to expand and contract during resistance training. This is an important part of the muscle building phase in a workout. Try walking or jogging in place to really get your blood flowing and your heart pumping.
Instead of standing around or sitting in between sets, use the time to keep your muscles ready for the next exercise. Stretch the muscle groups that you have just worked, as well as the ones you will be working next. Keep your breathing patterns consistent and pace yourself to always maintain control of your movements. As you become used to including stretching in your routine, you might be surprised at how noticeable the results are, both in appearance and how you feel.
The same type of warm up exercises can make great cool down exercises too. The point of cooling down is to ease your body back into its normal state. Take the time to stretch and give your muscles and joints the chance to wind down before just stopping the physical activity altogether. In the end, your recovery will be much more efficient and the strain on your body will be much less. Check with your physician or personal trainer to decide which warm up and cool down exercises would be right for the exercise program or sport you are performing. By customizing the exercises, you will be helping the exact muscles and joints that are experiencing the most movements. A typical stretching routine can take about five minutes, so there is no excuse for even thinking of exercising without it.