You’re all set to exercise, so you walk out of your door, do your daily run, then immediately shower and get started on the rest of your day. Does this sound familiar? Keeping up with an exercise routine may feel time-consuming, but no matter how busy your schedule is, you should warm up before your workout and cool down after.
It is important to include a proper warmup and cooldown in your fitness regimen, no matter if you’re a beginner, a seasoned pro, or somewhere in between. Why? Simply put, warming up and cooling down help to improve performance and decrease the risk of injury. A good warmup will increase the temperature of muscles, getting them ready to work, while cooling down after exercise will help muscles recover properly and avoid pain and injuries from exercise.
Warming Up Readies Muscles for Exercise
Warming up before you exercise can set you up for success. It prepares your body for the type of exercise you are about to do. A good warmup should last five to 10 minutes for you to reap its benefits, such as:
- Raises your body temperature to rev up your cardiovascular system.
- Increases blood flow to your muscles.
- Reduces muscle soreness.
- Prevents injury.
A good warmup is necessary for any type of exercise. Keep in mind that your warmup should reflect and complement the type of workout you will be doing. This will help improve performance and ensure the muscles are prepared for that particular movement. It will also help improve coordination, reaction times, and accuracy.
How to Warm Up to Avoid Injury
Warming up pumps nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to your muscles as it speeds up your heart rate and breathing. So, how should you go about it?
Start with light cardiovascular exercises and stretching. Stretch major muscle groups such as thighs and shoulders, then start performing activity and movement patterns related to your workout at a slow pace that gradually increases in speed and intensity. For example, if you plan to go for a long run, do some lunges, squats, or walk briskly before pounding the pavement. Doing so helps loosen your joints and stretch the muscles, preparing them for the workout you are about to perform and guarding against injury and pain.
Still not sure if a warmup is worth another five to 10 minutes of your time? Briana Williams, a New York City-based personal trainer and coach, shares via her Instagram (@briana_coach) four primary considerations for warming up, and drills you can do before working out.
Cooling Down Protects Muscles From Pain and Injury
Cooling down is just as important as warming up before exercising. Many people skip a cooldown after their workout and rush off to the next part of their day. Cooling down allows the body to return to a natural resting state and can help avoid pain and injury and increase performance.
Personal trainer and nutrition coach Charlotte shares via Instagram (@charlottefit2828) additional benefits of a proper cooldown:
- May diminish the potential for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness),
- Reduces the risk of dizziness or fainting at the end of a hard workout.
- Allows your body temperature to come down to resting levels gradually.
- Helps mitigate the process of lactic acid buildup.
To start your cooldown, gradually reduce the pace of your workout during the last 10 minutes of your session. For example, if you are running, you may reduce your pace to a brisk walk for the last 10 minutes.
How to Cool Down Properly to Stay Pain- and Injury-Free
During your workout, your heart rate has been pumping much higher than it normally does. It is important to gradually lower the intensity of your workout instead of abruptly stopping.
A cooldown can look a lot like your warmup. Do some light cardiovascular exercises and stretch to relax and lengthen muscles throughout the body and improve your range of motion. When cooling down, it is best to focus on exercises that are appropriate for the workout you just did.
Need help coming up with your ideal cooldown? Try these simple and effective exercises and stretches to calm your heart and reduce stress in your muscles.
Remember that taking time to properly cool down can help prevent muscle injuries and speed up recovery after a workout.
Consider Sports Massage and Electrotherapy to Enhance Recovery
Did you know sports massage can be used as part of your warmup or cooldown? A short massage can help athletes and weekend workout warriors warm up the muscles to get ready for your workout, or assist you with stretching your muscles after exercise, to return them to their pre-workout state.
Don’t have time for a sports massage? You may opt to complement your warmup or cooldown with an electrotherapy device such as BioWaveGO RX. This handheld device can help improve your daily function, relieve pain, or help you recover after an intense workout. Find out how you can try BioWaveGO through insurance providers.