During my workout yesterday in a rather cold garage gym I was reminded of the importance of a good warm-up and cool-down before and after your session.
Warming up before an exercise session is a routine that should be done as a matter of necessity for all individuals about to partake in some form of physical exercise. Its only 5-10 minutes added on to your workout time but for some that amount of time can't be spared or is seen as boring. Warming up isn't just jumping about on the same spot for a few seconds waving your arms about like you are in dire need of help! Its about giving your cold, unused muscles abit of a 'heads-up' before you expect them to start working to maximum effect for you!
For most workouts its beneficial to do some light cardio such as a little jog, cycle or row for around 5 minutes this will get your muscles loose this in turn will help prevent muscle strains and pulls during your workout it will also have the effect of raising your heart rate and making you feel mentally ready to get on with that all important session it may even improve your performance! After the light cardio session comes 2-3 minutes of stretches the best form of these types of stretches are dynamic as they get your muscles to their working temperature and stretching them which will greatly increase their function. These types of dynamic stretches are to be completed with controlled movements as this is best to improve the range of motion for the muscles you are going to work, it also saves time as 2 muscles can be stretched at the same time, for example your quads and your hamstrings, both obliques etc.
If you are unable to use dyamic stretching due to difficulty in your range of motion because of joint problems then static stretching maybe the best way forward for you. With static stretching you are holding the stretch for 10-15 seconds and in that time your muscle is lengthening and warming up. Static stretches are also used after your cool-down when you have completed your exercise. These again should be held for 10-15 seconds and importantly no pain should be felt just mild discomfort as the muscles are stretched and subsequently lengthened.
After your workout comes the all important cool-down, the main benefits of the cool-down are that it gradually helps your heart rate drop into your normal zone again and this in turns steadies your rate of breathing. If you stop exercising suddenly after a particular intense session you increase the risk of fainting and dizziness which can be a result of blood pooling in the lower extremities, this is when intense activity is halted abruptly leaving the blood in the lower limbs instead of being pumped back to the heart thus making you feel lightheaded and a little nauseous. The cool down can also help rid the body of all the lactic acid build-up in the muscles quickly, if this is not done then you will feel tired and sore the next day. I have discussed above the static stretches which are completed right at the very end after the cool down, these will greatly improve your flexibility and your muscles readiness for your next session.
So remember to heed my advice and give your muscles a little TLC. It may add a few more minutes to your 40 minute workout but your body and performance will reap the benefits after every warm-up and cool-down!