By Lauren Denos: 6/10/2015 (Fitness)

You have heard that you should warm up before a workout and cool down after. But do you know why?

Many people skip these steps, mainly because they do not really know what the warm up and cool down are doing for their bodies. Believe it or not there is actually good reason to do a warm up and cool down. Let's go over the reasons why.

The Warm Up

The warm up helps with:

  • Relaxing the muscles to help reduce muscle stiffness before the workout begins

  • Warmed up muscles utilize oxygen more easily

  • Increases the blood flow through the muscles, helping to build muscle.

  • Increased speed of contraction and relaxation of warmed muscles

  • Warmed muscles allow for better movement

  • Brings the heart rate up so that it is ready to take on the exercise you are about to perform.

  • Helps you get mentally prepared for your workout.

Starting with a warm up can help set your body up for the workout. Warming up is when you are doing any sort of lighter movement to bring your body temperature up. It is a good idea to warm up specifically for what you are going to be doing. For instance if you are going to be running a marathon you would start with a walk, continue to slowly speed up until you are jogging and eventually running. If you are getting ready to do some rock climbing some lighter squats and lunges would be a good option as well as some pull ups. Maybe also warm up with some balancing exercises. Warming up helps to prevent injury due to springing into action with cold muscles. Many people warm up on a treadmill just because it is an easy way to warm up without thinking much about it. But you do not need to go with the treadmill. Many people find stationary machines painfully boring, if you are one of these people then you can start with some jump roping or start with whatever you are going to be doing but just go lighter for about the first 10 minutes of your workout. 10 minutes is a pretty good amount of time to do your warm up, you can do more if you want and some people do less it is just a matter of you feeling like your muscles are warm and ready to work.

A warm up is NOT stretching. Stretching is something you actually want to do after you warm up. There are some types of stretching that can be added into your warm up such as dynamic stretching, but you do not want to stretch too deep when your muscles are cold. Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching you will see a dancer do when they are getting prepared to dance. They are moving stretches.

Warming up can also be a great way to get your mind in the zone for your workout. Many people workout either first thing in the morning when they wake up or right after work when they have just finished with a draining day. In both of these cases it is helpful to get your mind in the game, otherwise you wind up having a workout session where you are just going through the motions. And while going through the motions is better than nothing at all, it is not going to give you the results you are wanting.

The Cool Down

The cool down helps with:

  • The removal of waste products in the body, such as lactic acid

  • Reducing the pooling of blood in the veins

  • Helps the heart to come back to it's normal rate

  • Reduces possibility for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)

  • Reduction of adrenaline in the system

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