Warming up and cooling down are essential elements of a good workout. Each has a role inpreparing your body for optimal physical performance and aiding your recovery. So we share how to warm up and cool down properly.
Warming up is vital to reduce the risk of injury. Before subjecting your body to physical exertion, whether you’re lifting weights, running, bicycling, or playing tennis or golf, you must prepare it for activity.
By warming up, you direct blood to your muscles, kick start your cardiovascular system and raise your body temperature. Warming up also helps lessen muscle soreness, reduces your risk of injury, and puts you mentally into peak position for your workout. When warming up, it’s good to focus on large muscle groups first, such as hamstrings, quadriceps and your core (abs and back muscles).
Ideas for warming up:
- begin with a slow walk and work up to a power walk for five to 10 minutes; this is especially good before a run.
- thenperform dynamic exercises, such as jumping jacks, jogging on the spot, lunges and squats
- finally, do some light stretching, such as shoulder rotations, arm swings and toe touches; to avoid any muscle and ligament damage, ensure that you only stretch when your muscles are already warmed up.
Your workout is over. You’ve done the hard work. Now you’re ready to put your feet up. But before you stop, it’s important to cool down properly. Instead of building up to the workout, you’re nowreducing the intensity of the exercise to bring your heart rate back to resting point. Cooling down properly also helps reduce the dizziness that can come after exercise and helps the body expel lactic acid – a chemical produced in muscle tissues during strenuous exercise, which can cause post-exercise soreness.
Static stretches are great for cooling down because they help loosen your muscles, realign muscle fibres and re-establish their normal range of motion. Remember that stretches should feel good and not give you any pain.
Ideas for cool down stretches:
- quadriceps – while standing, bend one leg until your foot touches your glute, hold in place for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg
- hamstrings – prop one leg on a bench or table at hip height, and then gently lean into the stretch, again for about 30 seconds, then repeat on other leg
- chest – standing sideways against a wall, place one arm on the wall, fingers facing sideways, and turn gently away from the wall until you feel a stretch through your arm and upper chest; repeat on opposite side
- triceps and shoulders – take one arm overhead, bent at the elbow, and extend your palm down the centre of your back, supporting elbow with opposite hand; repeat with other arm
- core – laying on your stomach, push up with your arms, keeping hips on the ground until you feel a stretch throughout your abdominals, ensuring you feel no pain or strain in your back; from this position, push back until your bottom is resting on your calves, and lower your head and keep your arms stretched outto feel the stretch in your back.
Also remember that an important part of the exercise recovery process includes drinking plenty of water and eating a nutritious, high-protein meal post-exercise.