No matter which fitness program you might be following, warming up (Before exercising) and Cooling down (After exercising) is essential for maximum efficiency. The relevance of warming up and cooling down is perhaps the least understood, especially among gym newbie’s. The advantages of engaging in stretching and light endurance activities, before and after the main workout, lies in reaping maximum benefits from your exercise program while simultaneously improving low back functions.
It’s important to understand the science behind warming up and cooling down in order to appreciate it completely. Picture your body as a car which is starting from rest. Now you cannot start a car in fourth gear no matter how quickly you press the accelerator paddle. Things will only get rolling by gradually shifting from the first to the fourth gear. Likewise, things will only stop by rolling from the fourth to the first gear.
Your body works similarly. Warming up is essentially the “First gear” which provide muscles sufficient time to adjust to the new demand which the activity places on them. Without providing this “sufficient time”, muscle and joint discomfort can occur while your body is engaged in the “Fourth gear” during the main workout. Stretching can also be included during warming up since it enhances better flexibility, improves posture and reduces risk of injury during your workout.
Similarly, your body needs time to decrease your heart rate after you’ve just completed the high intensity part of your workout. Cooling down is easily accomplished by simply moving at slower pace for several minutes after your main workout. Stretching should also be included for relaxing your body after an aerobic activity while your muscles are still warm and pliable. It offers additional advantages of releasing muscle tension, enhancing mental relaxation and lowering the risk of muscle soreness.
There are several ways for warming up your body before the main workout. Perhaps the simplest is to start doing parts of your regular workout but at a lower intensity. For example, if you run during your workout then walk to warm up. Likewise if you engage in heavy muscle building then warm up by decreasing the weights to less than half of your main workout. Always do stretching exercises for the muscles involved in the activity as well as for those in mid trunk and lower back area.
When it comes to the cooling down phase, then you can engage in some muscular endurance exercises such as curl ups or crunches. Cooling down your body is equally important as warming up and hence must not be overlooked. Simply walking back to your home after your workout, can also serve as a sufficient cooling down activity in case you’re not engaged in some heavy workout.
An important thing to remember is to never cut corners during the warm up and cool-down phase. Don’t look upon it as an unnecessary activity which can be conveniently avoided. Rather, make it the first and last thing that you do in a gym. In case you’re constrained for time, then it would be a good idea to reduce the main body of the workout and allowing 5 to 10 minutes for the warm-up and cool-down portions.