Warming up and cooling down are important parts of a workout. When you do a proper warm up, you ease your body into your workout activity. A cooling down activity helps to gradually return your heart rate to normal and is also a good time to deepen the stretch in your muscles.
The Importance of Warming Up
Athletes know that to get the most out of their bodies, they have to follow a workout ritual. Such a ritual usually begins with a warm up that gets the circulation going. While you may or may not consider yourself an athlete, any strenuous physical activity that begins abruptly has the potential to cause injury.
If you're taking a dance class, for example, an experienced teacher knows to start the class with movements that ease your body into the physical activity. If you are not part of an organized workout and set your own pace, it is especially important to incorporate a warm up that prepares your body. If you plan to run five miles, for example, you can warm your muscles by first walking faster and faster before taking off in a sprint.
It is also a good idea to stretch your muscles before heading full force into a workout. In the running example, after you have walked or jogged in place for a few minutes, you can stretch your calves, quads and hamstrings. These muscles often become tight and if not stretched regularly are more prone to injury.
Depending on your exercise activity, the middle section of the workout is usually the most strenuous portion. This is where you engage in cardiovascular activity and/or strength training. When your muscles are warmed and stretched ahead of time, you will experience greater blood circulation and agility to help you perform at an optimal level.Cooling Down After Your Workout
When you are ready to wrap up your workout, it is sometimes tempting to just finish up and hit the shower. Once your heart rate is up and your muscles have been taxed, this is an important time to give your body a chance to cool down. If you have just completed a strenuous cycling session, for example, take this time to pedal more slowly on a less strenuous gear. Keep your body moving so that your heart rate can gradually resume its resting rate.
The cool down portion of your workout is also an important time to stretch your muscles. Your muscles are at their warmest during this time, which makes it the perfect time to deepen your stretch. Take the time to stretch each muscle group that you exercised. Breathe deeply through the cool down period to help your muscles melt into the stretch. You will find when you stretch during the cool down that you will feel less soreness from your workout. Besides helping to prevent injuries, this decrease in soreness is important for maintaining your motivation to adhere to your workout routine day in and day out.