If there are three areas of the workout that do not excite the majority of people and that many ignore altogether, it is the warm up, stretching and cooldown.
But they really are the unsung heroes of training. Without them, we are in danger of injuring ourselves because we will be overworking a system that has not been properly prepared for physical intensity and stress.
The purpose of a warm up is to prepare the body for the impending stresses and strains of an impending workout and help avoid damage and injury to muscle and connective tissue.
I am sure that people often cut straight to their workout and don’t bother with the warm up to save time. But we are only talking 10 minutes here. 10 minutes to help optimise a workout and avoid injury – surely that is always 10 minutes well spent?
How to warm up
There are many ways you can do this; cycling, jogging, walking… Nothing too vigorous, just enough intensity to get loose, the heart pumping and the blood flowing.
If you are training for something very specific (a particular sport for example) and your workout reflects this, it helps to do something that mimics what your training will be doing. This prepares your motor skill coordinating system and heightens what is known as kinesthetic awareness.
The other effect is that a warm up will stimulate the delivery of nutrients by blood and increase enzyme activity in the working muscles.
The result of all this is improved strength, speed, muscle and tendon elasticity.
This is another often avoided element of a proper and balanced workout, ironically most often by those who say something like, “I’m not very flexible anyway”. That clearly makes no sense!
Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion without muscular or structural obstruction.
It is true that there is a natural element to flexibility, with some who are blessed with it in abundance, while others are pretty stiff. But it can and should be worked on and the less flexible amongst us can make significant improvements.
Before a workout dedicate just five minutes to some concerted stretching. Target tighter areas and make sure to stretch each area of the body that your workout will be targeting.
You should adopt slow movements, taking your muscles to a point of tension that you can certainly feel, but it should not be painful. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
The other often avoided element! Most likely because people feel they have now done the work and they need to leave the gym or sports club. What can be gained by a cooldown after all?
This could actually be the most important 5-10 minutes of the whole workout!
During the workout your body has been doing many things, these include: expending energy, muscle fibres breaking down, heart rate accelerating and core body temperature rising. It is important that your body is allowed to efficiently recover from all of this. If not, the system will breakdown and you will stop making progress.
Conversely, by allowing proper recovery you will increase your potential and make greater advances.
Now doesn’t that all sound likes it’s worth just a few more minutes of your time?
Connect with WatchFit expert Ina Gutowska