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Warming Up and Cooling Down: How to Incorporate Stretching.

Anyone who has had a coach or a trainer has been told to do warm ups and cool downs as part of their routines before and after working out or participating in their sporting events.  These practices are not just for the athletes, but for everyone who is going to be doing any type of physical activities, from hiking to running, to the intramural games of softball, kickball, and the like.  In order to help prevent injuries, reduce muscle soreness, and increase your mobility, it is very important to warm your body and muscles up before you jump into action.  It is also important to slowly cool your muscles and reduce your heart rate back down afterwards.

Start With Warming Up – Pre Workout

For best results, it is recommended to do a warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes before your event or workout.  This warm up should include dynamic stretches, which are continuous movements that put your muscles, that you are about to use, in a full range of motion, warming them up, and getting them prepared for the task at hand.  Think jumping jacks, high knees, running in place or butt kickers, lunges, arm circles, trunk twists, and circling your wrists and ankles.  Easy, low impact movements that get you warmed up and moving in a full range of motions that you will be utilizing.  Never go full out with speed or weight or hold any position for more than 3-10 seconds.  Think light and continuous to wake your muscles up and prepare them for what they are about to embark on with the workout or event.

Why Warm Up With Dynamic Stretching?

Warming up with dynamic stretching gets the blood flowing and helps warm up your muscles.  Hence the term warm up.  You never want to start cold, just like an engine; you need it to warm up for a bit before your drive your car in cold weather, the same goes for your muscles.  If you want to optimize your performance, you need to prepare your body and muscles for the work that it is about to do.  Going through the movements and range of motions that you will be doing will help prepare them to move at a higher intensity. 

End With Cooling Down – Post Workout

After you finish working out you should always take the time to cool back down.  The best ways to cool down is to slow down.  Keep moving for a few minutes at a slower pace, walk around, shake out your muscles, and regain and steady your breath to bring down your heart rate.  Then once you get your breath back under control, you can then do some static stretches.  Static stretches are those longer holding poses (usually 10-30 seconds and repeated several times) and are aimed at lengthening your muscles back out.  These stretches are also great for reducing soreness and increasing your flexibility.  Think slow, holding movements that are gentle and relaxing to bring your body temperature and heart rate back down. 

Why Cool Down With Static Stretching?

Cooling down with static stretching helps reduce your heart rate and cools the body back down.  Also, the best time to do lengthening stretches are when the muscles are already warmed up and loose to help increase your range of motion and flexibility.  Doing static stretches after you finish working out also helps reduce muscle soreness and cramping, allowing the muscles to relax and recover. 

Properly warming your body and muscles up beforehand and cooling them back down afterwards is not only going to help you perform better, but will help prevent injuries, increase your mobility, and allow your body to recover faster.  In total, it will help you do your best, be your best, and maintain your best.  Treat your body with care and respect, and you will be able to enjoy what you love to do even more. 

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