Have you ever tried to stretch a rubber band quickly? You stretched it to its limit, and likely it snapped as you continued to pull on it. Believe it or not, your muscles react in a similar manner when you fail to properly warm up your muscles, especially before exercising or other strenuous physical activity. When muscles are “cold” and lack adequate blood flow, they are stiff and lack flexibility. This inflexibility could lead to a serious injury.
Go back to that rubber band. If you rubbed it between your hands for a few moments, stretched it slowly and held it in place for another few moments, and repeated this process a couple of times, you would find that you could stretch the rubber band quite far. By warming up your muscles, you are raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow through your muscles. More blood flow allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach muscles.
Do you remember grade school when the gym teacher would have you do some jumping jacks to warm up and then go straight into toe touches? When you’re seven or eight years old, your body is quite limber and likely did not need an extensive warm-up to prepare for physical activity.
If you haven’t been active, you’re probably not going to be able to do a few jumping jacks and touch your toes as easily. That’s okay. You just need a little more warm-up time. So, what to do? A good warm-up routine doesn’t need to be more than 5 to 10 minutes. (But, listen to your body, some days, you may need some extra time. It’s okay.) Start at a gentle pace for a couple of minutes and gradually increase the pace. You will feel warm and may even sweat a bit.
Now you’re ready to do some light stretching. Focus on stretching each muscle group that you will use in your workout. Stretching correctly during training makes you stronger and decreases recovery between workouts. (We’ll cover this topic in another post.) You only need to stretch for a few minutes.
After you get in an awesome workout, lactic acid builds up in your muscles. This build up can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue. Stretching after a workout reduces muscle fatigue. When you stretch after a workout, your muscles are warm and you benefit from increased blood circulation. Stretching helps to reset your body to a natural position and posture.
Foam rollers are excellent tools for breaking up adhesions and scar tissue to speed up the healing and recovery process after your workout. Using one can hurt but in a good way. You’ll notice the results almost immediately.
Your cool-down activity should be focused on bringing your heart-rate closer to your resting heart rate. Some light walking and foam rolling at the end of your workout will help increase circulation and lower your heart rate slowly. A cool-down routine will also decrease post-workout soreness.
What do you do for your warm-up and cool-down routine? We want to hear from you. Comment below.
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