Warming up and cooling down are two of the most important elements when working out. This can usually range from light stretches to cardio and weights, depending on what you prefer or what optimizes you for your exercise. While it might be common knowledge for people who are into fitness, do we really know what it’s all about and what it does do to our body?
In this article, we will be discussing the importance of these two vital steps. We will also break down what it really means to warm up and cool down. If you want to know how you can properly do it and find the most effective methods for you, read on.
What is a warm-up?
Warm-ups are defined as an activity done before your exercise routine. It aims to help you better perform physiologically and mentally helps you start the gears before the main workout. It is our way of telling ourselves that there are more physically demanding
Usually, warm-ups consist of exercise that could cause you to perspire and sweat a little. This is why cardio activities like a quick jump to the treadmill or the elliptical are some of the most common warm-ups at the gym. Others incorporate stretching movements to ensure that your muscles are properly warmed up before doing any rigorous activities. It lasts for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on what you’re prepping for, as well as your personal preference.
Why do we need to warm up?
As we’ve mentioned, warm-ups are our way to tell our bodies and minds that we are about to do an exercise. It gently prepares us for our activities by gradually increasing our heart rate and blood circulation. It helps to loosen your joints and increase blood flow to your muscles, making it easier to go through your workouts without a hitch. Aside from that, our body temperature rises in a gradual way, and the speed and force of muscular contractions also increase in a way that’s not too much for our body.
Stretches are usually integrated on warm-ups as a way for our muscles to prepare for the next activities. It doesn’t necessarily make us stronger, but it helps the muscles to become less stiff, prevent injuries from happening, and reduces the chance of joint problems during the workout. The reason why is the improved neural function and coordination, which helps us protect major joints by increasing the lubricating fluids and thickening our articular cartilages which are the body’s shock absorbers.
Being mentally prepared also adds up to the motivation, making sure that you’re hyped up throughout the workout. In cases like athletic games, warm-up drills help you regain muscle memory and wake you up to stay alert throughout the game.
How to do warm-up exercises
As mentioned, warm-ups depend on your activity as well as your personal preference. However, it is recommended to do some cardio like walking, jogging, or elliptical to slowly increase your body’s temperature. It also helps you bring your heart rate up and increase circulation. If you are into muscle building, it is also best to do dynamic stretches. This can help you reduce muscle stiffness and prepare you for lifting or other rigorous activities.
Aside from cardiovascular exercises and stretching, strength drills are also recommended. This is usually done by people who are already in the intermediate level as this might be too much of a stretch for beginners. Sprint drills or jumps, as well as other calisthenic exercises, are considered to be strength movements. This gently increases the level of intensity and prepare your body for sudden movements in the next phase of your workout. Most heavy workouts need to have your muscles warm to prevent you from injuries and to make movements easier to deliver.
What is a cooldown?
After an intense workout, it is always recommended to take a few moments to cool down. While many would skip this, it is actually an important step to make sure that your body knows that the activity is over. The main goal of cooling down is to decrease the intensity of your exercise session. This helps your body return to its normal state of rest. This is usually a combination of stretches or light movements, giving your body cues that it’s okay to relax. Cooldowns usually help your body to slow down your heart rate to a normal level, relax your muscles, and decrease your adrenaline levels.
Why do we need to cool down?
A cooldown relaxes and calms down our body, making sure that our levels are neutral after an intense and rigorous exercise. Aside from that, cooldown movements also help our body to prevent blood pooling, making sure that our blood flows through our body rather than pooling into the muscles that have been worked out. It also brings back our heart rate to its normal resting state gradually as well as reduce the blood lactic acid levels. Adrenaline also gradually decreases during this process.
If you’ve had moments when you felt nauseous or fainted after a workout, cooldown can help you with that. It actually prevents fainting as these light movements ensure that our brain continues to receive a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen. Shocking our body by suddenly stopping would definitely make us feel sick. Thus, it is vital that we try to take it slowly before completely finishing our routine.
How to cool down
The main key when cooling down is finding ways to gradually slow down after an intense workout session. You can start by jogging then slowly walking down for 3-5 minutes just so you can catch your breath, bring your breathing under control, and relax yourself a bit.
If you are doing some weights, you can cool down by walking around lightly, until you feel like you have relaxed a bit. Once your heart rate is back to its relaxed state, you can follow through with some stretching. This would help the muscles to relax, especially if they’ve contracted a lot during your workout. It will also help them return to its normal length and reduce the delayed onset of muscular soreness that you may experience afterward. Additionally, stretches also aid faster recovery and provide extra assistance as it repairs itself. Deep breathing would also help you oxygenate your system and help you further calm down.
Overall, warm-ups and cooldowns are incredibly important when working out. While it may be overlooked by many, its benefits are definitely something that we should appreciate better, especially if you are into intense workouts that push your body beyond your limits. It is also important to take note that these processes would help prevent future injuries or other issues that you may encounter during and after your exercise routines.
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