I used to habitually warm up and cool down before and after my workouts, but lately i find myself bypassing the warm up and skipping the cool down. I know, I know, it is SO TIME CONSUMING, but we REALLY need to adopt and consolidate warm ups and cool downs into our routine. It is JUST as important as the workout itself.
Warm ups loosen (synovial) fluids in and around our joints, preventing injury, and increase blood flow to our muscles. It also helps blood separate from oxygen, allowing the oxygen to be better delivered to muscles. Getting your heart pumping increases blood flow, not only to the muscles, but back to the heart, reducing the risk of any cardiac problems from exercise. Warming up also gets your sweat on, reducing heat storage in the body.
I usually perform around 4-5 minutes of light cardio on the treadmill – a jog at 5.0-6.0 mph will suffice. You could also perform dynamic exercises like arm swings, hip circles, leg swings, walking lunges, alternating toe touches etc. These exercises will decrease muscle tightness, which can cause musculotendinous tears. If you are lifting very heavy weights, I would recommend performing your first set at 50% of your desired weight and gradually increasing. Oh and also the 100th amazing fact about warming up: it improves our motor skills by speeding up the rate at which our nerve impulses travel. Cool right?
When you exercise your body is constantly creating ATP (energy), which often causes build up of waste product. The purpose of a cool down is to flush these toxins out of the body as well as release strains put on muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Cooling down also brings your body (i.e. heart rate) back to resting levels.
If you suddenly stop working out, without cooling down, we may encounter blood pooling. Blood pooling is when lactic acid (a waste product and the prime reason our muscles fatigue) builds up and remains in our muscles. This causes tightness, pain, and swelling – none of which we want! So, when we cool down, our blood is circulated accordingly back to the heart, preventing lactic acid build up as well as carrying oxygen and other nutrients to cells in need – speeding up the repair process.
Cool downs consist of three components: light exercise, stretching, and proper refueling (4:1 carb-protein ratio). I usually walk or do a lighter version of the cardio I was performing for 3-5 minutes; and then stretch all my major muscles (particularly the ones I just worked); and then refuel myself with a protein shake (with fruits and a milk source, or, if I mix my whey with water, I will eat a meal within an hour of my workout).
After about an hour after my post workout shake, I constructed and devoured a delicious sandwich:
2 slices Sara Lee Whole Wheat 45 Calorie Bread
1 tablespoon Hummus
1/2 tablespoon Spicy Tzatziki
3 slices nitrate-free turkey slices
1 slice Low Fat Cheddar Cheese
layer of spinach
I ate it with a side of cherry tomatoes and 2 mini mandarine oranges 🙂