To combat the surge in obesity we are told to exercise more. Many people start exercising with good intentions but get so many aches and stiffness that they quite often fail to keep it up for long. I did a straw poll in the office last week to see how many attending the gym or did regular exercise. This is based on our office alone so may not be representative of the UK as a whole.
66% are currently working out or doing cardio exercise at least twice a week. Most of these play sport for clubs and are active all year round. 80% of these complete a warm up, of some description. The ones playing in team sports generally have a more active warm up. One said ‘putting on his trainers was his warm up’. How true this is though, I’m not sure.
When asked how many did a warm down, was met with a sea of blank faces. They had all heard of this and knew they should do one but, only 25% of these knew why. This group only warmed down when in classes though and did not follow this action when working out on their own.
So, why should we do a warm up and warm down, if many are coping without one or both.
Why warm up?
A warm up should allow your body to get prepared for more strenuous exercise. It should increase the heart rate gradually, which allows the circulation and blood flow to reach the extremes of muscles likely to be needed during exercise. Stretching of muscle groups, joints and raising the heart rate are all required for a successful warm up and should last 5 to 10 minutes depending on the level of exercise to be undertaken.
Why warm down and what is the purpose?
The reason for a warm down is to gradually lower the heart and breathing rates, to lower the body temperature and return the muscle fibres to their optimal length. By doing a warm down, you will reduce the chance of dizziness and it can increase the speed at which lactic acid is removed from tired and aching muscles (this is disputed though by some experts). As the blood flows at an increased rate during exercise, it is common for the blood vessels to expand especially in the lower half of the body (legs, feet and ankles) if you stop exercising suddenly without a warm down, the heart rate slows too quickly and pooling of the blood can occur in the legs. This reduces the amount of blood reaching the brain and dizziness or fainting can occur.
As the muscles are already warm, but completing a warm down can help with your flexibility which also helps prevent injury. Stretching should not be painful and a small amount of tension through each muscle group is all that is required, whilst lowering the heart rate.
Through the years i have coached football, cricket, rugby and speed training drills and we always completed a warm up before going onto the activity. However, as a coach, we were put under pressure to release the player as soon as the activity ended, as the parents were waiting and wanted to get their child home asap. If you could children at any level and in any sport, a warm up and warm down are equally important. The lack of flexibility in the population of the UK is so poor and it staggers me how many young players cannot even touch their toes when stretching their hamstrings, as part of the warm up. Many cannot even get pass their ankles and as they get older this will get worse. If you are an adult playing team sports, how many just go to the bar or pub for a beer rather than think about warming down.....more than you would think. This should be part of the team activity and not an individual task
So, if you engage in exercise please respect your body or the body of the player you are coaching and engage in a full warm up and a worthwhile warm down. You may extend your sporting career by taking just 10 minutes to look after you body.