CRAIG TANNER is a sports therapist, strength and conditioning, and personal trainer with over 20 years’ experience. He is passionate about helping people achieve their goals: whether it is recovering from injury, specific sporting goals or general fitness for health. He has worked with many different clients – from elite and Olympic athletes, to the general public – and loves his job! He shares his advice here.
“A good warm up and cool down, if done correctly will help reduce your risk of injury and improve your athletic performance at whatever level it may be.
Before jumping into the main parts of your exercise programme, please consider a warm up; and when you have finished your programme, let’s do a cool down.
Warming up helps prepare your body for aerobic activity by gradually increasing your heart rate which in turn will increase your body’s core temperature and blood flow to the muscles. A warm up normally involves you doing your chosen activity at a much slower pace and intensity.
Cooling down after your workout will help you to gradually bring your heart rate and blood pressure down to its pre exercise rate as well as helping your body alleviate those toxins that have built up in your body throughout your exercise session. Cool downs as with warm ups; normally include doing your activity at a much slower and less intense rate.
How we warm up
Warm up right before you plan to start your workout. Start by doing your chosen activity slowly at very low intensity for 5 – 10 minutes increasing your pace/ intensity gradually as you go. This is called a dynamic warm-up and may produce mild sweating but should not fatigue you. Examples of a warm up activity include steady walking or cycling for 5 – 10 minutes to gradually increase that heart rate and core body temperature as well as increasing oxygen rich blood flow to the muscles. After this phase of your warm-up is done you can gradually start introducing other activities that are more specific to your session, remembering still to build the intensity gradually.
How we cool down
Cooling down is pretty much the same as warming up with what you are doing, generally we are just continuing with some aerobic exercise after your workout for an extra 5 – 10 minutes gradually lowering pace and intensity. Examples of cool down activities are the same as warm-up ones, except we are now decreasing pace and intensity gradually.
Dynamic stretches are now the choice of stretches for warming up, this involves your body using momentum and muscular effort to stretch, not holding any joint at its end zone, Example would be swinging your leg backwards and forwards. Dynamic stretching has proven results in the warm-up phase by increasing muscle temperature, improving muscle contraction and nerve response.
Static stretching is still the choice of stretch to do with your cool down; this involves holding a stretch in a comfortable but slightly challenging position for a period of time, normally between 10 and 30 seconds. Static stretching is good for increasing your joints range of motion and relaxing those muscles in the cool down phase.
Some benefits of exercise
- Manage your weight
- Reduce your risk of developing disease
- Help prevent and treat mental health issues
- Enhance your sense of well-being
- Great way to unwind from stresses of life
- Improve muscular and cardio respiratory fitness
- Improve bone health
- Reduce risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Keeps your heart healthy
- Boosts your energy
To stay healthy the National Health Service says an adult should try to be active daily and aim to achieve 150 minutes two-and-a-half hours) of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities.
A few tips for when you get started…
- Stay hydrated
- Start off slow, building up your exercise time and intensity over a period of time
- Set smart goals, make sure they are achievable realistic
- Find something you enjoy doing
- Try working out with a friend or family, ‘A workout buddy’ to support each other and motivate.”
Craig Tanner MSTA MFHT