How to warm up and cool down
I find that failing to do a warm up or cool down or doing it incorrectly is one of the main reasons for many injuries I see. Whilst some injuries are unavoidable, some injuries are very much preventative by looking after yourself. I know myself how difficult it is to spend time stretching after exercise when all you want to do is go home, get in the shower or go to the bar! Doing a thorough warm up and cool down decreases the chance of many injuries taking place. I am going to go through what you should be doing in your warm up and cool down and how it can benefit you.
Doing a warm up holds many benefits, some of which include loosening of muscles, getting the body ready for exercise, increase in circulation and as mentioned before a reduction in injury. Imagine your muscles are elastic, they need to be stretched gently and slowly worked to increase the elasticity of them before doing aggressive movements in sport.
The majority of people that I see do what is called static stretching before exercise. This has recently been ruled out and replaced by dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches mean you move around a lot more rather than standing still. This prepares the body much better for sporting activity as you are never really standing still for that long in any sporting activity. Static stretching before exercise has also been shown to overstretch and overextend muscles and cause a decrease in strength and power which is not what you need.
The ideal warm up should last for about 30 minutes. It should begin with a gentle jog and steadily increase the pace of the run. Once you have been jogging for about five minutes you should feel that your heart rate has raised significantly and feeling slightly short of breath. Once you have done a jog you can start doing exercises such as body weight squats and lunges followed by dynamic stretches such as leg swings, high knees, bum flicks, opening/closing the gates and arm swings. After spending time doing this you should do some drills that you will be doing in whichever sport you are taking part in. E.g. some passing or shooting drills.
Even if you are just doing weights on the upper or lower body make sure you get the muscles and joints used to the movement patterns you are going to be doing. If you are doing squats then it is important to do a set just squatting the bar.
Just like a warm up, the cool down is very important to be doing after activity. It is vital to steadily bring down your heart rate and breathing before rest. Failure to do this by stopping instantly increases the chances of fainting or severe dizziness post activity.
You should begin the cool down with a very gentle jog, leading into a walk for about 3 minutes. The cool down is where you should be doing what is called static stretching, you should already know plenty of these, hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
From doing the cool down it will help to limit muscle soreness and tightness that you may feel the following day and therefore making it easier the next time you exercise. A cool down should last 10-15 minutes and should be started within five minutes of finishing your activity.
If you require any further advice or would like to speak to me further about warming up or cooling down feel free to get in touch!