I know, I know. You walk into the gym ready to get at it, but I won’t let you.
It’s in my crazy-trainer OCD nature. I simply can’t let you begin working out until your body is warmed up. My directives don’t stop right after we’re done, either. At the end of our time together, when you’d really rather be hopping into your car (ahhhh, it’s OVER!), I stand over you like an army sergeant making you stretch those limbs that just took a 50-minute beating.
So yes, I am about to reiterate the benefits of warming up and the importance of stretching. It’s required reading now that I have a blog, so PAY ATTENTION!
A good warm-up consists of light cardiovascular activity that generally requires 5 to 10 minutes. It can be anything from walking fast on a treadmill to jogging in place to jumping rope, but it’s a must. Some of you ask if they can get this out of the way earlier in their day, but a warm-up simply doesn’t count if it didn’t take place fewer than 30 minutes before I see you or else it defeats the whole purpose of it!
Warming up elevates heart rate as well as the rate of blood flow and oxygen coursing throughout your body, preparing it to be stretched. I like to use the analogy of how we are told to sit in our cars for at least 30 seconds with the engine running without putting it in gear in order to get the systems ready and the fuel flowing. While we are not cars, with all that sophisticated machinery and computer circuitry, we do need to warm up just the same.
Here just a few reasons to properly warm up before your weight training regimen:
· Muscles that are properly warmed up will be able to both contract with more force and relax at a faster rate after a contraction. The warmer the muscles, the stronger and faster the body. Plus, warming up assists in preventing injuries by overextending a muscle. I may be a trainer, but even I routinely pull muscles by doing something my body was not prepared to do.
· Get hot (isn’t that the goal here anyway?)! Properly warming up will help your muscles become more elastic. Not only will they perform better, but a warmer body temperature can also lower the probability of a strain.
· It’s good for your heart! Warming up forces the blood vessels to dilate, reducing the tension physical activity places on your heart, and increases blood flow throughout your body.
· Cooling down is easier; Warming up triggers sweating and an increased breathing rate, both of which assist in cooling down muscles and joints when they begin to get too hot. By doing a proper warm-up, you can reduce the effect that heat has on your muscles and joints when initially beginning your weight training routine.
· Bet you didn’t know THIS one: Warming up makes your body secrete additional hormones that provide your body with energy via additional carbohydrates and fatty acids, aiding in more successful and productive workouts.
It’s all about that stretch, ‘bout that stretch, ‘bout that stretch…
I cannot overemphasize the benefits of stretching after a workout. You benefit from it both physiologically and psychologically, and here is why:
· Lactic acid builds up in your muscles during a workout. This can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue. Stretching helps to reduce that muscle fatigue and your now-warm muscles will benefit from increased blood circulation.
· Stretching will help your muscles to recover faster from a tough workout. Let’s face it – one of the main reasons people give up too easily on exercise regimens is because they hate putting up with sore muscles. It’s sometimes the underlying reason some clients skip appointments with me. When you stretch, the likelihood is much higher that you will proceed with your next workout and prevent future injury.
· It’s also a mental thing: when you stretch after working out, you have a chance to tune into how your body is feeling. You breathe through a stretch and pay attention to any aches and pains in the process. The mind-body connection is important for relaxation and stress relief. Stretching is known to calm the nerves and relax the mind.
So have I impressed on you just WHY we can’t suddenly dive into your workout and why you can’t disappear after your last rep? Warming up and stretching are just as important as the rest of your workout. My fondest wish is that you embrace them as a vital part of your journey to fitness.