Why do we warm up and cool down?

Why do we warm up and cool down?…Because I said so. I’m kidding! I am a massive Disney fan, and warming up always reminds me of Winnie the Pooh. Every day, when he wakes up, Pooh heads over to his mirror to sing his “warm up” song prior to eating his honey. One morning he bends over and completely rips the stitches in his back! Does this sounds familiar to anyone?

A couple weeks ago, I was getting back into the swing of things after being sick and decided I wanted to just get a little sweat going, nothing crazy just get the body moving. I decided to do 6k on the bike erg and then 100 burpees, thinking ok these two movements are body weight movements and cardio based so I will be just fine. I did some static stretching for about 5 minutes and hopped right into it. After I finished I felt happy about what I had done, I achieved a nice little sweat but had to run out the door to go on about my day. Thinking nothing of it, I didn’t do anything to rehab my body, especially after being sick. The next day my back was in spasms and extremely uncomfortable to the point where I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t understand what had happened or what could have caused that because it’s not like I went to PR my deadlift, but when I tried to do a burpee later on that week I had realized what had happened.

The constant hinging from getting down and up from a simple burpee on top of the inflammation created from being sick for the last 2 weeks, caused my lower back to be crushed. Needless to say I once again learned my lesson that warming up and cooling down is critical.

If you want to get into the science of warming up, the body needs to be prepped for whatever movement it is going to be required to do; the higher the intensity the longer the warm up needs to be. Warming up dilates (widens) the blood vessels to allow for more blood flow, hence more oxygen to the muscles. As your heart rate increases during the warm up, the amount of stress on the heart will lower once you begin your programming.

These are examples of why dynamic movements are more important for warm up than just completing static holds. Doing shorter static stretches will help finish preparing the body’s joints to increase range of motion. This is where I went wrong in my bargain-basement warm up a couple weeks ago, all static no dynamic. I also understand that some days you only have so much time, so on these days choose to do biking or rowing because you can do both warm up, a higher intensity workout, and a solid cool down in the time that you have.

As for a cool down, try to take at least 5 minutes to slow spin on a bike or rower to allow the body to destress from the workout. If you have to leave right after that try to take time before you go to bed to complete some static stretching to help the body recover from your earlier endeavors.

The whole point of going to the gym and improving your fitness is to feel better outside the gym, warming up and cooling down not only allows you to perform at your best inside the gym but allows you to stay healthy to go on to perform daily tasks as well.

- Coach Janine