Foundations of Fitness: Why Warm-ups and Cool Downs Matter
Last week, we talked about bodyweight training and resistance training. While both forms of training are important, it's most important to know when to implement them. Going straight into a strengthening program without knowing the foundations of how to perform the exercise without added weight can impede performance and ultimately, get you injured. This week, we'll be talking about what I believe is the most important aspect of ANY workout; WARM UPS AND COOL DOWNS! Let's get right into it, because there are some misconceptions that must get debunked.
The Foundations of Fitness is a series I came up with to share with you the importance of a well-rounded fitness lifestyle. That's right - LIFESTYLE. Here's what we'll be covering in this series:
- Why Mindset Matters
- Why Nutrition Matters
- Why Bodyweight and Resistance Training Matter
- Why Warmups and Cool Downs Matter
THE WARM UP
A warm-up is a slower start and process to prepare you for your workout. We warm-up to raise our heart rate and our respiratory rate, to warm up our muscle and joints, and increase flexibility. You'd think this was the exhaustive list of reasons to warm up to prevent injury, but oh no, there's so much more. Injuries suck. I know, I've had three major surgeries and umpteen ongoing ailments. So, I've devised my own list of reasons/ways you get to warm up and prevent injury before it strikes. Read on for more!
WARM UP SLOWLY
Even if it's for five minutes, take your time when you're warming up. Whether it's hot or cold outside, your body isn't in GO mode immediately. You still have to take your time and focus on what you're doing. Rushing through your warmup won't service you at all, and it can and will lead to injury. Have you ever rushed through the beginning of a romp between the sheets session?? Yeah, you know that ain't right and you ain't ready, LOL. Take it slow and get your body ready for your workout.
WARM UP THOROUGHLY
What is your workout for the day? Your warmup should at least somewhat mimic the exercises you're about to perform. If you're working out arms and back, focus on warm up exercises (like arm circles and cobras) that will warm up your arms and back so you can perform the exercises to optimum performance.
WARM UP MENTALLY
Prepare your mind for what your body is about to endure. If you've had a very busy day, filled with meetings and clients, or it's been stressful and you have all that burden on your shoulders, you're not going to be focused on your exercises, let alone the entire workout as a whole. You'll be in the gym for the sake of being in the gym, and THAT is wasting your precious time that you could be spending being more productive. Bottom line; you won't be in there and performing at 100% because, subconsciously, you're thinking about other things. One way I clear my mind before my workout is I think about the last workout I did that worked the area of my body that I want to work now. I remember what worked, I remember what didn't work, and I then I focus on what I can do better in that current day's workout so that I can go harder when I get started. I have something to focus on rather than that hard client I had to work with, or the phone call where nothing got resolved, or that argument I had with someone. It pays to remember your WHY in this case of mental clarity.
In the case of the post-workout, cool downs are just as important. You must make sure that when you've completed your workout, that you're not just grabbing your bag and going. Cooling down prevents any injury that could come about, and gives you a chance to calm down before you head on to your next task.
Some important things to remember about cool downs are below:
COOL DOWN TO LESSEN TIGHTNESS AND SORENESS
When you're driving your car, how long does it take to get from 60mph to stopping? You can't do it in 2.2 seconds. It takes a little longer than that. Why? So you can prevent accidents from happening and prevent parts of the car from locking up or breaking. Your body is built the same way. Sure, you can get up and go, AND you are almost guaranteed to wake up in the middle of the night with the most painful charlie horse of your life. So spend a little time preventing tightness and soreness.
COOL DOWN TO PREVENT FAINTING
When you get light-headed or when you actually faint, it's because blood flow gets to your head too quickly. When you're working out effectively, your blood flow will flowing in such a way that it's providing oxygen all throughout your body. When you're at rest between sets, you may notice your extremities may get red. That's because the blood is migrating to your extremities. Too fast, and you run the risk of dizziness and fainting. When you take the time to cool down, the blood flow can flow properly through your body at a rate that keeps you on both feet.
COOL DOWN TO COOL BODY TEMPERATURE AND LOWER HEART RATE
This is something that I believe most people don't even realize can be a detriment to their lives. Overheating and a high heart rate can lead to major issues, even including death. Consider football players who have passed out on the field during summer practice and then died. We don't know if all of the cases involved exhaustion or overheating of body temperature, and we know that some of them were because of overheating and uncontrollable heart rate (which can also be traced back to a healthy diet.). Be careful to hydrate your body appropriately, and use cool downs to bring your heart rate and breathing down gradually to normal levels.
Warming up and cooling down shouldn't feel like a chore or like it doesn't matter. It most certainly does. You don't spend the same amount of energy warming up or cooling down as you do on your actual workout. You should be spending no more than about 10-15 minutes on each, and in doing so, you're saving yourself from a slew of ailments and injuries.
How about a chance to catch me for more fitness and wellness tips? Join me over in my Private Facebook Group, The Focused, Fit, and Fly Spot. This fitness support community is amazing, and will give you the encouragement and inspiration that you need in order to stick to and meet your fitness goals!