You’re pumped for your next workout; you always give 110% – AMAZING! But somehow, something seems to be missing? And that leaves you feeling unfulfilled and a little achy.
That’s right! If you haven’t given much thought to the start and end of your activity, you’re not alone; we’ve all made the mistake of running in a time or two and live to regret it.
While the stuff in the middle (aka the workout) is a fitness fanatic's bread and butter, if you’re missing out on those all-important warm up and cool down exercises, you could be heading for pulled-muscle disaster.
Welcome to Exercise 101– your short guide to getting those muscles flexible with some simple warm up and cool down exercises.
But, why do you need to warm up anyway?
Modern life has us sitting more than ever. A JAMA study found that 1 in 4 adults were sitting between 6-8 hours a day, meaning your regular working schedule could be having some pretty harmful effects on your health – posture, heart disease, premature mortality risks, to name a few.
While there are some in-office activities you can do to boost your activity levels during the day, nothing beats a good old-fashioned workout. But with so much sitting, it’s like your muscles are a little stiff and inflexible.
Warm-up activities help:
- Your muscles loosen and get ready for all the fun that’s ahead
- Allows you a wider range of motion
- Increase the effects of your efforts
- To prevent injury during the workout.
Why do you need to cool down after a workout?
Now you know the importance of that warm-up as a pre-game activity for exercise, let’s jump to the finish. Why do you need to cool down after working out?
Stopping anything cold turkey is hard – from your favorite TV show to those ‘bad habits’, think of a cool-down as a method of easing your body from full-intensity back to its ‘normal.’
A cool-down is one of the best things you can do after any workout (the others you can find here). It helps you to:
- Reduce the body’s temperature gradually, after that sweat you worked up
- Gives your heart rate time to return to normal, meaning your less likely to feel faint
- Allows you to catch your breath so you’re not puffing and panting for the rest of the day
- Helps your body relax and allows your muscles to start to repair.
Top 5 Warm-Up Exercises
1. On the spot marching/light treadmill work
Start off on the right foot by getting those muscles moving. A little light marching, high knees arm swinging included, can help wake up your body. Alternatively, you can also do a little light treadmill work at a low speed for 5-10 minutes.
2. Jumping jacks/side-to-side jacks
This activity helps to engage almost every part of your body and is great for building up a little heat before you get started with your workout. If you’re able to, aim to do jumping jacks for 1 minute. But, if that’s too much or you have joint problems, try side-to-side jacks instead (no jumping included).
3. Arm swings
Let’s get those arms moving and make those shoulders more flexible. Raise your arms and circle them forward with large motions for 30 seconds. Now, backward for another 30. Then comes the tricky part – circle your left arm backward and right forward for 30s, then reverse for another 30.
4. Hip circles
Time to put those hula hoop skills into action. Engage the muscles of your core area by circling your hips as if you were using a hula hoop. Aim of 60 seconds one way, then reverse for another 60.
5. Toe touches
Stand on the spot and raise your leg straight in front of you without bending at the knee, try to lean forward and touch your toes while the leg is raised. This activates your back and leg muscles and increases your flexibility.
Top 5 Cool-Down Stretches
1. Walk it off
Phew! Workout accomplished! Now that you’ve got that off your checklist, all that’s left is cool down. Start by taking a simple 5-minute walk around your gym or on the treadmill.
2. Side stretches
Don’t give back pain a chance to set in. Standing on the spot, lift your right arm above your head and stretch down to the left. Hold for 30 seconds. Now, repeat with your left arm above your head and stretch to the right. Hold for another 30 seconds.
3. Leg stretches
A lunge stretch could be just the trick for ensuring those muscles remain supple. Stretch in a lunge position with the right leg forward, really lean into the pose and hold for 30 seconds. Next, return to standing position and repeat with the left leg.
4. Open your back
In standing position, clasp your hands behind your back. Your feet should be slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Next, lean forward, bending at the waist. Open your chest muscles and feel the pull in your shoulders and back. Hold for 30 seconds and return to standing position.
5. Arm stretches
Take care of those arms, you’ll need them. First, lift your right arm up above your head, bend at the elbow so that it hangs down your back. Next, use your left arm and apply slight pressure to your right elbow, increasing the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.