Warm-Up & Cool-Down

 

 

Warm-Up Guidance

The warm up is an essential part of your workout, not just for your body, but for your mind. Warming up is important for a number of reasons including:

  • It warms the muscles and increases body temperature, which improves the oxygen supply to the body
  • It helps increase blood flow to the muscles, allowing them to contract and relax more quickly
  • It helps prepare the body and the mind for more strenuous activity
  • It increases the elasticity of the ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues

Always warm up for 5-10 minutes before performing any exercise routine. How long you warm up will often depend on what you're doing and how much time you need to transition into exercise. The idea is to warm up gradually, allowing your heart rate and respiration to increase slowly.

 

Warm Up Examples:
  • Basic: Warm ups can be done with light walking, jogging, or by low intensity work on any piece of cardiovascular equipment. You should slowly stretch your muscles first, and then gradually increase your level of activity. For example, begin walking slowly and then pick up the pace.
  • Cardio: For cardio workouts, it's best to stick with lighter versions of the exercise you'll be doing. For example, if you're running, you might start with a few minutes of light walking, move into a slow jog and then into the workout. If you're doing an aerobics workout, you might start with low-impact moves (step-touches, grapevines, marching in place, etc.) before you move on to more vigorous activities.
  • Strength Training: For strength workouts, you can either do the basic warm up (e.g., do a few minutes of light cardio) or a specific warm up where you do one set of the coming exercise with lighter weights before you reach for the heavier weights.

If you feel pain or discomfort while working out, stop and gently stretch. If you feel better, slowly and gently resume your workout. If you are sweating, even lightly, your heart rate has increased. Strenuous exercise may make you breathe heavily and your muscles ache temporarily but exercise should not be painful. In fact, if it does, it may indicate an injury or muscle strain.

 

Cool-Down Guidance

Always cool-down by stretching after an activity session. It helps to keep the muscles supple and injury-free. After you are finished exercising, cool down for about 5-10 minutes by stretching your muscles and letting your heart rate slow down gradually.

Cooling down is important for the body because it:

  • Helps the heart rate and respiration slow down gradually
  • Helps avoid dizziness or fainting, which sometimes happens when exercise is stopped suddenly and blood pools in the legs
  • Allows your muscles time to recover and repair for the next workout
  • Helps your muscles get rid of waste products such as lactic acid
  • Helps calm your mind and prepare for your daily mindful practice

 

Though the cool down is often the best part, many people skip it because they run out of time or just run out of steam and find they're ready to move on. But allowing yourself this time will help your body and mind to recover. Take just a few minutes at the end of your workout (particularly your cardio workout) to do the following:

  • Slow down. Just like your warm up, when you get to the end of your workout, slow down and gradually allow your heart rate to lower.
  • Continue moving. Give yourself at least five minutes to move around, especially if you've been doing high intensity exercise.
  • Cool off. Keep moving until you're not sweating anymore and your skin is cool to the touch. Use this time to sip water and rehydrate.
  • Stretch. Once you've cooled off, this is an excellent time to stretch the muscles you've used during the workout. Stretching can help relax the body and increase flexibility. You can also use this time for yoga exercises (link to yoga page), which promote flexibility, balance and stability.


Example Stretches

No matter what form of exercise you choose, you'll benefit from adding stretching exercises to gain flexibility and range of motion. Stretching is the best form of injury-prevention for new exercisers. The following stretches can be used during your warm-up or cool-down:

  • Calf Stretch - Face a wall, standing about 2 feet away from it. Keeping your heels flat and your back straight, lean forward slowly and press your hands and forehead to the wall. You should feel stretching in the area above your heels (this area is shaded in the picture). Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat.
  • Quad Stretch - Face a wall, standing about 1 foot away from it. Support yourself by placing your right hand against the wall. Raise your right leg behind you and grab your foot with your left hand. Gently pull your heel up toward your buttock, stretching the muscles in the front of your right leg for 20 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your left leg.
  • Groin Stretch - Squat down and put both hands on the floor in front of you. Stretch your left leg straight out behind you. Keep your right foot flat on the floor and lean forward with your chest into your right knee, then gradually shift weight back to your left leg, keeping it as straight as possible. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your right leg behind you.
  • Hamstring Stretch - Lie down with your back flat on the floor and both knees bent. Your feet should be flat on the floor, about 6 inches apart. Bend your right knee up to your chest and grab your right thigh with both hands behind your knee. Gradually straighten your right leg, feeling gentle stretching in the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your left leg.