You change into your workout gear, you drink that pre-workout shake and you prepare your mind for the next hour or two of sweat-dripping, heart-pumping exercise. Are you sure you're ready, though? You might be so eager to leap into exercise right away but it's important to prepare not just your mind but also your muscles as well.
Warming up before a grueling exercise can dilate blood vessels so that your muscles are supplied with oxygen. It also increases your muscle temperature so you don't start with "cold" muscles, which can lead to injury. It will also slowly increase your heart rate so your heart won't be stressed by the sudden increase in beats for pumping blood.
It's important to note though that warm up should consist of light cardio activity like walking, and not stretching as your muscles aren't that flexible and efficient yet. Here are some tips for that perfect warm up:
- Do it 5-10 minutes. If you are planning to do an intense activity, your warm up should be longer.
- If you are planning to warm up by walking or cycling, do it at a slower pace. Remember that you are just warming up.
- Use your entire body when warming up so that all of your muscles are heated up.
As much as we would like to immediately lie down and rest after exercising, cooling down is just as important as warm up. You would want to slowly bring your body temperature and heart rate to normal. Stretching is the best way to cool down since your limbs, joints and muscles are still warm. It can help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can often lead to muscle cramping and stiffness. Here are some tips to effectively cool down:
Walk for 5 minutes until you can feel your heart rate slow down.
- After walking around, you can start stretching from top to bottom. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds and breathe while stretching. It shouldn't be painful but it should be strong.
You are doing your body a big favor if you warm up and cool down so don't forget to do before and after exercising.