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  • Writer's pictureDavid Hurley

Warm Up and Cool Down.

Make your training and competing ultra safe.

Warming up and cooling down are both absolute musts for anyone engaging in any form of physical activity: the gym, classes, HIT sessions, weights, playing football / tennis / squash, cycling, just about anything that you can think of.

I talk about this with lots of my patients each and every day. The conclusion I have come to is that most people don’t understand why, don’t know how and have been given lots of “bar room” advice by folk who also don’t really know what they are talking about.

As a qualified coach, bodyworker and having worked in elite sport and performance I’m now going to give you the absolute lowdown, so here we go.

Warm Up:

Done correctly, warming up will help in reducing your risk of injury, getting you ready to move, improve your performance right from the get go and give you peace of mind that your body will be very well prepared.

If you’ve been to any professional sports event, whatever it is, if you get there early you’ll see the teams or individuals warming up and most of the time this will be for a considerable length of time, some examples.

Go to a Premier Football match, the warm up is usually about one and a half hours to two hours long, the same in rugby. I remember going to the end of season tennis at the 02 and watching Novak Djokovic warm up for three hours and astoundingly at the 2012 Olympics watching the cyclist Jason Kenney warming up for three hours for a 29 minute long race.

Now I know that they are elite sports stars and that’s their job and they have loads of time, but with all the sports science around now, do you think they would be doing this if there was a better way? I’ll answer that for you, No!, sports science would have them doing something much better, if it existed.

Just as an aside if you’re going for a run, going to your front wall, hitching your leg up on it and doing some kind of weird half bends forward for thirty seconds on each leg is not a warm up. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

So the basic science as to why a warm up is needed each and every time you go to do some exercise. Before you start all the systems in your body are in a resting state, the heart is at it’s slowest, oxygen saturation is normal and nutrient levels in the muscles is neutral, it’s all ticking along just fine. So when you exercise all of this will need to speed up. More oxygen in the blood will be needed, a faster supply of blood, nutrients and oxygen will be required by the muscles and muscles will have to off load wastes and toxins at a faster rate. The basis of this is increased heart rate and function.

That’s why we warm up. To safely increase heart rate, warm the muscles, increase lung function and get all the systems in the body at an increased level. This will then supply the body with everything that is required, in a timely manner and in the right quantities. An absolute requirement.

How To Warm Up:

So let’s give you an example of what this looks like.

Running is a great example but it applies to any sport or training. So let’s say I’m going for a twenty minute run and my usual route is to go out the house, down the drive, turn left and start my run. Run for twenty minutes on my usual route. Come back to the house from the other direction, job done. WRONG!!! No warm up or cool down. So this is what it should look like.

Come out of the house and down the drive, instead of turning left, turn right and start a brisk walk, keep walking for five minutes and then turn round and keep increasing the pace into a run, you should reach the driveway about ten minutes since you left it having warmed up through walking and jogging. Don’t stop, the run has now started, complete the run of twenty minutes by arriving back at the driveway but don’t stop, keep going for another five minutes but gradually slowing down. At five minutes turn round and make your way home back to the driveway. Warm Up / Run / Cool Down complete. Incredibly simple.

So there you have it a simple way to incorporate the correct procedures into your running, the same process should be carried out for ALL physical activity, you just need to get a little bit creative. In a gym environment / classes / weights the cross trainer is a fantastic way to warm up and cool down.

Just a word of caution, stretching is not a warm up or cool down. When you see professional sports stars stretching they’ve probably already been warming up for at least an hour and what they are actually doing is activation stretches, all good stuff in a prolonged warm up regime. I’m not going into a really long explanation on stretching here as I intend to cover this off in an article in it’s own right in the future. But if you think back as to why we warm up and cool down, to increase / decrease heart rate in a controlled manner, stretching does not do that. A lot of readers will think that viewpoint contentious, that’s fine, I’m happy to debate that with anyone who would like more info, otherwise there is lots of research online to support what I’m saying (a word of caution, if you are looking at it online, please make sure it’s a really credible resource and not just some numpty on Facebook).

Cool Down:

So a bit of this has already been covered off by default but let’s just go through the bits that haven’t.

When we train, compete or play and we have carried out an effective warm up, we’ve arrived at race pace with the body in great shape to move with the absolute best efficiency, raised heart rate, super oxygenated blood, loads of rich nutrients in the blood, warm muscles and a system that is raring to go. This continues throughout whatever we are doing and ensures our bodies don’t go into deficit.

So what happens if we stop without a proper cool down? In that case the heart would keep pumping at an elevated rate for approx. six minutes. This means that the enriched blood is being delivered to the muscles but because they have stopped working at an elevated rate they are getting an overabundance of oxygen and nutrients. This rich soup collects in the muscles, who can’t off load it quickly enough, and this then pools and collects in the muscles. Over the next forty eight hours the muscles try and off load as quickly as they can but the process is slow and by default the muscles go into crisis and you then get severe muscle ache and cramps, commonly known as DOMS.

So there you have it Warm Up and Cool Down as process very easy and simple to employ but an absolute must if you are going to avoid getting injured and not have sore muscles after exercise.

Be kind to your body

Finding time for regular exercise and workouts, plus warming up and cooling down, can be hard. But with a little creativity, you can probably fit it all in. For example, you can walk to and from the gym for your warmup and cool-down! And now I’m really not going to give away any free tips, get creative, get moving, get fit and stay injury free!!

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