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Why Warm Up? Why Cool Down?

The Importance of warming up before exercise


​Warm up activities
​The warm up activities are an important part of any exercise regime or sports training. The importance of a structured warm up regieme should not be underestimated when it comes to the prevention of sporting injuries.
An effective warm up has a number of important elements. These elements should all work together to reduce the likelihood of an injury from the physical activity which is to follow.
Warming up before any physical activity does a number of things, but its main aim is to prepare the body and the mind for the more strenous activity. One way that it achieves this is by increasing the body's core temperature and also increasing the body's muscle temperature. By increasing the temperature of the muscles you are helping to loosen the muscle helping to make them supple and pliable.
An effective warm up also has the effect of increasing both the heart and respiratory rate, which increases the flow of blood, which increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to all the working muscles. This increase in bloood helps to prepare the muscles, tendons and joints for increased activity.
There are four four key elements that should be used in order to complete an effective and succesful warm up. They are:
1 General warm up
2 Static stretching
3 Sports specfic warm up
4 Dynamic stretching
General warm up
The general warm up should consist of light physical exercise. The intensity and duration of the warm up should be dertermined upon the general fitness level of the athlete. However a correct general warm up for the average person should take about 5-10 minutes and result in a light sweat.
It is important to start with the easiest activity first, then build on each part with the more energentic activities until the body is at both a mental and physical peak. This is when the body is prepared for the physical activity which is to follow.
The main aim of the general warm up is to increase the heart and respiratory rate. The increase in the heart and respiratory rate increases the flow of blood which helps to carry oxygen and nutrients to all the working muscles. The increased bloodflow also helps to increase the temperature of the muscles which helps preapare the muscles for stretching.
Why include stretching in you warm up?
Stretching is a simple and effective activity that helps to enhance performance, decrease the likeihood of an injury, and reduce muscle soreness.
The Benefits of stretching
Improved range of motion: By placing particular parts of the body in certain positions, you are able to increase the length of the muscles. By increasing the length of the muscles the general tension within the muscle is reduced and the normal range of movement is increased.
By increasing the range of movement it in turn increases the distance our limbs can stretch before damage occurs to the muscles and tendons. For example, the muscle and tendons at the back of the legs are placed under a great deal of strain when kicking a ball. So the more flexible and pliable those muscles are, the further the leg can travel forward before a strain or injury occurs. The benefits of an extended range of motion include increased comfort, increased ability to move freely, and a reduction in the muscles and tendons susceptibility to strain and injury.
Types of stretching
There are a number of different ways to stretch, but they can all be grouped into one of two categories: static or dynamic.
Static Stretching
​Static stretching is a set of movements, or stretches, that are done to lengthen, or stretch out a muscle. These types of stretches are diffrent from others because they are done when the body is at rest and not moving. Slow and fluid movements are used to get to the stretched position, and this posistion is held for a certain period of time. There is no movement or bouncing while in the stretch. There are no additional weights used in the stretch, body weight is the only weight that is used.
There are two types of static stretching: active and passive, active stretching requires effort from the muscles and passive stretching requires no effort and uses assistance from another source. Doing this type of stretching before and after a workout will have great benefits such as relaxaing the muscles and making them more flexible.
Active Stretching
Active stretches are position that use no assistance other than the strength of the agonist (opposing) muscle. This is a muscle or group of muscles that cause certain movements only by contracting themselves. An active stretch requires some effort.
An example of an active stretch would be holding your arms extended straight above your head, this causes the muscles in your arms to contract in order to hold them above your head.
Passive stretch
A passive stretch is similar to a static stretch, however another person or piece of equipmet is used to help increase the stretch within the muscle. During this type of stretch the force that is applied to the muscle is greater which makes this form of stretching slightly more hazardous. It is very important to check that any epuipment used is both stable and solid. If you decide to use another person it is extremely important that no jerking or bouncing force is used to stretch the muscles. Choose you partner carefully as this person is responsible for the safety of your muscles and joints while you are performing your stretches.
​Doing the splits is a form of passive stretching, with the floor as the medium of assistance. Holding your knee up to your chest and wrapping your arms around this knee is also an example of a passive stretch.
Static stretching can be done passively and actively. If you want to stretch out your calf muscles, you can use the wall to do the stretch. You place your toes against a wall and then press lightly to get the stretch. This would be a passive stretch. To do this stretch actively you take a step out with one leg while bending down and keeping the opposite leg behind you. Leaning forward will give the calf a stretch.
Static stretching is the most common form of stretching that is done. Many athletes use this form of stretching before working out or before events to get the muscles ready to perform. Static stretching also helps with flexibility and will help to increase range of motion if done regularly.
Sports specfic warm up
After the first two parts of the warm up have been completed it is then safe to move onto the sports specfic warm up. During this part of the warm up the body is being prepared for the particular demands of the sporting activity which is to follow. During this part of the warm up, a more vigorous type of activity should take place, and should reflect the type of movements and actions that will take place during the sporting event.
Dynamic Stretching
A correct warm up should finish with dynamic stretching. However this type of stretching comes with a risk of injury if done incorrectly. It should only be used under the supervision of a professional sports trainer or coach. Dynamic stretching is used more for muscular conditioning rather than flexibility and is really only for professional and highly conditioned athletes.
Dynamic stretching should only be used after a high level of general flexibility has been achieved.

The warm up and cool down are just as important as each other for different reasons. The main purpose of the warm up is to prepare the body and mind for strenous activitiy, whilst cooling down plays a different roll.
The main purpose of the cool down is to promote recovery, cooling down after exercise is just as important in reducing the risk of injury. The cooling down process assists in the body's recovery and brings it back almost to it's normal state, cooling down after exercise helps to prevent any unnecessary pain and muscle soreness.
The cool down when performed correctly, will assist your body in it's repair process, one area that a cool down helps with is post exercise soreness. "This is the soreness that is experienced the day after a hard work out. Most people will experience this if the have stopped exercising for a while or they are at the start of their sporting season. The discomfort that is felt is known as post muscle soreness, the soreness is caused by a number of things. During exercise tiny tears called micro tears develop in the muscle fibers. These tears create swelling within the muscle tissue which in turn puts pressure on the nerve endings which results in pain. During exercise the muscle fibres, tendons and ligaments are put under a great deal of strain and waste products build up inside the body, cooling down after exercise helps the body flush the toxins and release strains.  
When exercising, your heart is pumping large amounts of blood to the working muscles. This blood brings with it oxygen and nutrients that is needed by the working muscles when the blood reaches the muscles it uses up the oxygen and nutrients. The force of the the contracting (exercising) muscle then pushes the blood back to the heart where it is re-oxygenated.
When exercise stops, so does the rate and force that pushes the blood back to the heart. This blood as well as it waste products stays in the muscles which in turn causes swelling and pain, this is often called blood pooling. The cool down helps to prevent this by keeping the blood circulating which helps with the removal of waste products. The fresh supply of blood also carries with it oxygen and nutrients needed by the muscles, tendons, and ligaments for repair and recovery.
Cooling down after exercise is just as important in reducing the risk of injury. The cooling down process assists in the body's recovery and brings it back almost ti its normal state.
There are three main elements which should be included in an effective cool down.
They are:
1 Gentle exercise
2 Stretching
3 Re-fuel
Cool Down Routine For The Amatuer Sports Person
* 3-5 minutes of easy exercise. Make sure that the easy exercise resembles the type of exercise that was done during  your work out. For example if your work out included a lot of running, cool down with easy jogging or walking.
* Include some deep breathing as part of your easy exercise this helps to oxygenate your system.
* Follow this with about 5-10 minutes of stretching. Static and PNF is usually best.
* Refuel. Both fluid and food are important, drink plenty of water and a good quality sports drink. The best type of food to eat straight after a work out is fruit as it is easy to digest.
It is really important to cool down after your work out and it should never be ignored or neglected, as the cool down will make sure that you recover from your work out quicker, and it will also help to keep you free from injury. 

Why Cool Down?

Tracey Crowley
Massage Therapist

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