WHAT’S THE POINT OF WARMING UP OR COOLING DOWN?
We see it all the time. People just getting up and running without so much as a single hamstring scoop. Eek! Maybe it’s because they just don’t want to, or know how to. Either way, we thought it’d be important to hit upon this topic. So….
What’s the purpose of implementing a proper warm-up or cool down, and why’s it so important?
It’s quite simple:
Properly warming your body up and slowly cooling it down pre- and post-max effort help prevent injury, and optimize your performance during your workout or race. The End.
Haha, just kidding…sort of!!
Let’s dive in a little deeper into both of these scenarios. First, let’s cover the prevention of injury, and then we’ll go over how a proper warm-up and cool down can help optimize your performance and future performances.
First, know that we aren’t saying that by warming up you will never have an injury. But, you can help your body out by limiting the chance it has to sustain injuries. By doing a proper warm-up and cool down, you lower your chances of what are called “avoidable injuries.”
Avoidable injuries mainly consist of soft tissue strains, pulls and/or tears. By increasing blood flow and warming your body up, you are allowing for your body to slowly prepare for the upcoming task at hand. Especially when it comes to the realm of explosive movements like jumping, bursts of speed, lifts, etc…
Did you ever see that Whole Foods Thanksgiving commercial where the couple brings a backup dinner and says they’ll just “phase it in?” This should be you. You should phase your body in to prepare it for maximum effort by doing a warm-up first. The warm-up is how you can save the day by giving your body the best chance at remaining injury free prior to putting it through the chaos of the day.
OPTIMIZE YOUR PERFORMANCE:
But, what do we mean it can optimize your performance? Absolutely.
Whether you like it or not, your body needs to warm up. Think about pasta. There’s not much give or flexibility when it’s cold, uncooked, or just out of the box, but it will snap in half. Cooked (warmed up) pasta is pliable, flexible, and harder to snap in half.
Your body’s similar. The more you warm it up, the more pliable and responsive it will be to the strain and effort you want to put it though.
You need to increase blood flow and heart rate during a warm-up. No matter when you go to workout or participate in a race, your heart rate is going to skyrocket. Get used to it outside of race day, and you can better control it (and prepare for it) during a race. See, more than one benefit to warming up.
These kinds of conversations happen with so many people at the race venues…
“Oh man that first 10-15 minutes is always the hardest?!?”
My response: “Did you warm up?”
Their response (with some confusion on their face): “No?!? But that does sound like a good idea…..”
Well, a warm-up is actually a pretty good idea. Why should you feel like you got hit by a brick wall right before hitting a solid workout or race when you can phase it in? Take the extra 10-20 minutes before and after your workouts and races. Increase that heart rate and blood flow, and when cooling down bring the heart rate down gradually and continue to allow for increased blood flow in your muscles. Trust me, your body will thank you.
IMPORTANCE OF COOLING DOWN:
For the same reasons as slowly working your body into a maximum effort race or workout, you want to slowly wind your body down. An abrupt cold-turkey stop can also strain your muscles. It’s a good idea after you finish your workout to spend 10-15 minutes stretching or foam-rolling.
If you’re at a race venue, you can still do a cool down. Walk around for a few minutes when you finish instead of standing still or sitting down immediately. You can also spend a few minutes doing major muscle stretches, or other stretching focused on muscles where you feel tightness developing. This will also help in the days after the race if you’re prone to extreme soreness.
Basically, think about what parts of your body feel like they’re constantly in need of some TLC, and give it to them before putting them to test in battle. Take 10-20 minutes to dedicate to the warm-up and another 10-20 minutes for a proper cool down.
Every single strength training program we offer always includes a warm-up and cool down. Period. They’re extremely important.
Keep an eye out – we’ll be discussing key elements that you should include in a warm-up in another article coming soon.