Sunday, 4 March 2012

Warming Up, Cooling Down & Stretching Part 1

The above three components are a very important part of your exercise regime.  But a little like going to the dentist, we know we should, we skip it as often as we can!  So to clarify, here’s why we should be including all three, starting with the warm–up.

Let’s look at what the warm-up can do for you:

ü  It raises muscle temperature, increasing their elasticity making them more pliable and less likely to tear.

ü  It increases blood flow to the working muscles, bringing in oxygen and nutrients and removing metabolic waste products such as carbon dioxide.

ü  It increases body temperature and body awareness.  Preparing our self mentally, physically and psychologically for the session ahead.

ü  It enhances neuromuscular pathways (the link between the muscular and nervous system), thereby increasing the speed and efficiency of muscular contraction.

ü  Reduces the risk of injury.

ü  Enhances performance.
So now we know that warming up is good for us, how do we go about it?  Your warm up should be a gradual process and depending on age and fitness level will take somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes.  This simply could mean the first bit of cardio you start on gradually build your intensity till you feel your body becoming warmer thus preparing yourself for the speed, incline or effort to come.  How many times have you got on the treadmill and pushed yourself straight into a full on sprint with cold muscles?  You know who you are!

Similarly with the resistance machines or free weights. Surely nobody would attempt a 1 rep max with cold muscles! So again, in this scenario, perhaps a 12 to 15 rep max to warm the muscles you are about to use should suffice. 

Another alternative is to do the following dynamic warm up, should only take about 5 minutes and it will mobilise all your major joints and release any tension or tightness you may be carrying. This is a good one to do before getting on any of the cardio kit or before a run or cycle ride.  So here we go, starting from the top of the body. 

Stand with feet hip distance apart, engage your core muscles (that is gently pull your belly button back towards your spine).  Place your hands on your shoulders, now using a circular motion, do 8 circles forwards then 8 circles back.

Now place your hands on your hips and gently rotate at your waist side to side. Try to look over your shoulders as you rotate. Aim for 8 times each side.

Next stand on one leg (hold on to some support if necessary).  Now bend your other leg at the knee and gently swing this knee forwards and back 12 times.  Now make that movement larger so the movement is now coming from your hip.  So straighten out that leg (but don’t lock it) and now continue swinging back and forth.  Do these 12 times then repeat both the knee swings and hip swings with the other leg.

Now pull that knee gently up to the chest, release then switch knees.  Lastly circle the ankles 8 times in each direction.

Also nice to add some sideways movement or frontal plane movement incorporating both upper and lower body (and one that I always include).  So from standing, legs together, take a large step out to the side while simultaneously bringing both hands towards the floor or mid shin if flexibility won’t allow on that same side.  Come back to the centre then repeat on the other side.  Do this 12 – 16 times.

Finish by dropping your head to your chest and gently roll down through your spine, take your arms with you, hold them loosely in front, knees slightly bent until you reach the ground.  Pause then roll back up, stacking each vertebra back on top of each other.  Caution if you have back problems, ask your instructor if you are unsure.

This is a great dynamic mobility session by itself that puts your body through a good range of

Stay tuned for Part 2 Cooling Down.

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