Without a doubt the 3 most overlooked components of a fitness program are warming up, stretching and cooling down. Unfortunately, they seemed to be viewed as a waste of time. I can not tell you how often I hear, I’m warmed up — I ran in from the car or I’m good I will stretch later. The benefits of these components are so worth the extra time that I recommend skipping a set if necessary to fit them in.
When you exercise you are creating tiny tears or breaking down your muscles in order to built them up, that is why warming up is so important. It not only raises your core body temperature and the temperature of your muscles but also prepares your body for vigorous exercise. In general, a warm up should last between 8 and 15 minutes. To really get your blood flowing and heart pumping add intervals. Start with 5 minutes of easy warming up and then increase the intensity in 30 second intervals. Finally, incorporate “dynamic warm ups.” The idea is to target all your muscles with very light or no weight! The following are some examples:
- Knee Hugs
- Lateral Shuffles
- Walking Lunge
- Inch Worms
- Hold a deep squat position and do arm circles (forward & backward)
- Hold a lunge position, with arms extended to the sides do small arm circles (forward & backward)
- Hold a medicine ball in both hands and do a squat with a biceps curl, then switch to a squat with triceps extensions
Stretching increases flexibility, helps you relax, improves posture, gives you greater range of motion and may reduce your risk of injury. Always stretch at the end of a workout because it helps to eliminate any left over chemicals in your muscles, such as lactic acid and helps reduce the potential for ‘delayed onset of muscle soreness.’ Stretching is also a soothing way to connect your mind and body and it just feels great! When stretching make sure to use slow, static movements, the old fashioned bounce or “ballistic” stretching is very hard on your muscles and can actually do more damage than good. Remember to take time to stretch after any type of physical activity including; cardio, strength training or sports. Use these tips to get started and remember you can stretch any time!
- Never stretch a cold muscle
- Remember to stretch slowly, exhale as you gently stretch a muscle
- Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds
- Always ease into a stretch and never bounce
- When pain starts ease up, never push a stretch until it hurts
- Remember to breath
Cooling down allows your heart rate and blood pressure to recover and get close to your pre exercise state. Two simple cool down activities are easy jogging or walking. You never want to exceed a moderate pace and your cool down should take only 5 to 10 minutes.
You should always strive to get the maximum results when you exercise without hurting yourself — Warm Ups, Stretching and Cooling Down are the top 3 ways to improve your workout today!
Be Fit, Be Healthy, Be Happy! ~Tanya