The Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down
Ash Cannan, MPhty, B. App Sc (Ex Sc) - Registered Physiotherapist
We’ve all heard it... “warm-up prior to sport/activity, cool-down after.” But to be completely honest, who really does it consistently? After every run or workout? On average most people sneak in a quick 10-15 second stretch prior to activity. This isn’t ideal and I should emphasize that a good warm-up helps prevent injury and physically/mentally prepares the body for the upcoming challenge. There is much research available on warm up (including static versus dynamic stretches) and its necessity. However, a good guideline for warming up should be minimum 5-10 minutes and produce mild sweating without fatigue. More importantly, add some freshness to it, meaning change it up, keep it different and engaging each time. I have provided a warm-up below that I used to complete prior to every training and game of basketball.
5 minutes of jogging to increase core body temperature – include lunge walking, sumo squats, high knees, defensive slides, back kicks, skipping (high single leg jumps)
5 minutes of dynamic stretches – raises muscle temperature, elongates the muscles, stimulates the nervous system which may reduce the chance of injuries like strain etc. (E.g., wall leg swings, arabesque, pushups, calf pumps, stretching with a teammate)
5 minutes of game related drills – layups, 4 corner passing, dribbling lines, foul shots
In my experience, most of the athletes I have assessed and treated were lacking in cooling down after practice or competition. There wasn’t enough importance placed on recovery and preparing for the next activity/workout.
Cooling down is as essential as warming up. Muscle inflexibility is directly connected to altered biomechanics which may lead to potential injury even with regular preparation before training or game. To continue to lessen the stresses on your body, cool-down also plays a significant role. There are many different cooling down methods. Below is an example of one I like.
5 minutes of walking to lower your pulse to average level and to reduce the body temperature – also include some calf raises, mini lunges and ½ squats
5 minutes of static stretch which may help in maintaining flexibility
Be careful not to stretch beyond the available range of movement of a particular joint, which may cause micro or macro damage to a muscle or a group of muscles.
In this increasingly fast-paced world, the importance of proper warm up and cool down routines does tend to get overlooked due to lack of time. However, it is simply a matter of being innovative before we train or workout. This can be done by either fast walking, or even jogging, and utilization of dynamic drills and proper stretching prior to training. All of which will help minimize the risk of injury. At the very least, set aside 10 minutes before going to bed for static stretches, focusing on the major muscle groups.
Be good to yourself and your body, so that you can allow it to adjust and prepare properly for the next challenge!