Warm it Up & Cool it Down

The benefits of a proper warm and cool down are well known, or are they? “A warm-up gradually revs up your cardiovascular system by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Warming up may also help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury. Cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of pre- exercise heart rate and blood pressure”(i). A proper cool down will prepare your body for the next time you exercise and calm your mind as the blood moves and your nervous system is neurologically priming. When your body returns to a resting state, your breathing and heart rate will also slowly return to pre-exercise. Look at it like self-induced stress management. Many people have a routine that they use every day for a warm-up before daily exercise. These warm- up routines are ritualistic since they are always the same, like many other things we do habitually throughout the day.

Think about how you get ready for your day and the actions you repeatedly perform in the same order and with the same intent. You get out of bed the same way every day at the same hour, prepare by making coffee, showering, brushing your teeth, and getting dressed, then grabbing your phone, keys and heading out the door for your day.

Rituals increase our performance by turning small, everyday acts into more significant ones. They add meaning and joy to our lives because they prepare us for tasks and daily life (ii). Considering habit building is extremely meaningful, and many theories are supported by science when it comes to creating a routine. These routines, when performed habitually, will create a ritual that is safe and effective. According to the corrective exercise continuum from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, there are phases to a warm-up:

1) Inhibit - self myofascial release aka foam rolling
2) Lengthen - static stretching or neuromuscular stretching techniques
3) Activate - underactive or weak muscles
4) Integrate - dynamic total-body exercises that are progressed to solidify changes made

Now, if that blows your mind because it sounds like “trainer speak,” then think of it like you need a plan to accommodate the focus of your training session. What is your focus for the day? Then start with foam rolling sore spots or tender spots on your body relevant to what you’ll be working out. For example, leg day means to take care of your feet, calves, quads, and glutes at a minimum. Then use a dynamic warm-up that focuses on your legs, hips, and the rest of your core. Then add some hip presses(or glute bridges) followed by some bodyweight squats and side-to-side lunges. The focus of your day determines the style of your warm-up and how you get ready. Look at it like going to the beach. You would not get your best suit or dress prepared for this day. Instead, you would figure out which bathing attire you feel your best to wear to a sand and water type of day.

A proficient warm-up takes about 7-10 minutes and does incorporate all aspects of a total body approach. You can take five exercises and repeat them twice as you add some heat into your body by increased heart and breath rate. Remember, you are getting your body ready for training, so keep the intensity lower and slower while focusing on your breath and your body. Below is a quick example of what you can do to warm up your core, hips included, while focusing on the backside and breathing.

Exercise 

Notes 

Time

Hip Press 

Drive through your heels to activate the booty 

1 min

Worlds Greatest Stretch 

Back knee on the floor or not 

1 min

Bodyweight Squat 

Hands on ears and feet shoulder width 

1 min

Lunge Matrix 

A tri-planar lunge where you step back, step side  and step across

1 min

Bodyweight Plank 

Everything is active and tight 

6X10  

seconds


Properly cooling down is just as important as having a focused warm-up, so don’t skip out on bringing your body back to the resting state. The cool down should ideally be 5-10 minutes since it is your time to recover and allow the blood to come back from your muscles to your heart. Slow your breath down and focus on your heart rate while stretching will benefit you in the days to come by reducing soreness 24-48 hours post-exercise. Delayed Onset Muscle soreness (D.O.M.S.) is reduced through foam rolling and stress management, which means your level and time of soreness decreases. When creating the cool down routine, make sure it compliments whatever you focused on in your workout. Below are five exercises that will complement the warm-up that had a hip and core focus.

Exercise 

Notes 

Time

Wide Stance Hip Hinge 

Feet in wide stance outside of shoulders, with knees  slightly bent, hinge at the hips while pushing the hips  back and folding over. 

1 min

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch R 

In kneeling position, as if you’re proposing, drive  hips forward into the leading leg and rest hands on  leading thigh

30-60s

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch L 

In kneeling position, as if you’re proposing, drive  hips forward into the leading leg and rest hands on  leading thigh

30-60s

Figure Four stretch R 

Lay on your back, cross your right leg over your left  thigh, reach your right hand through the hole you  made and grab the back of your left hamstring or  front of your left knee.

30-60s

Figure Four stretch L 

Lay on your back, cross your left leg over your right  thigh, reach your left hand through the hole you  made and grab the back of your right hamstring or  front of your right knee.

30-60s

Combine your warm-up and your cool down with hydration, sleep, and proper nutrition, and enjoy your body since your body will thank you for the love and care you gave back to it.

References:  

i) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045517 2) https://www.fearlessculture.design/blog-posts/the-power-of-rituals-how-to-build meaningful-habits 

ii) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5833972/ 

   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4447757/