As well as helping you perform better while you train, and helping to prevent injuries, a warm-up and warm-down will improve your recovery rates between sessions.
We can’t promise you’ll never ache after a good session – sometimes a little bit of pain is a good thing – but it’s critical to do as much as you can to ensure your body is recovering from the trauma you’re putting it through when you exercise.
Here is the boot camp guide to warm ups.
What is a warm-up?
Usually a mix of stretches with light cardiovascular (CV) exercises. It’s important to start gently and build up in intensity. Also make sure to cover off all the main muscle groups and joints with stretches and mobility exercises. A thorough warm-up should last between 20 and 30 minutes.
What does the warm-up achieve?
The mix of strength, stretching and CV activity will ensure you are prepared properly for your session. CV exercises will increase circulation, body temperature and heart rate. Stretching will warm up the specific muscles and prepare them for the movements they will be required to perform. A ‘pulled’ muscle is almost always one that has not been warmed up properly.
Finally, a warm-up can include slightly more explosive exercises, which will prepare the body for sudden movements and bursts of activity. These should only be done once the muscles are warm and will also help to prevent injuries, as well as helping to enhance the level of training.
The effects of a warm-up aren’t just physical. Most athletes, in any sport, will use the warm up as crucial ‘psyching-up’ time – it’s a time to plan what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to do it. The quiet time is used by solo athletes to ensure their head is in the right place, as well as their bodies. If you’re playing team sports, it’s a great way to bond with team-mates before the game.
A pre-competition warm up can last for much longer – anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes, especially to allow time for mental preparations too.
Even if it’s just a warm-up before a training, then it gives you the mental advantage of knowing you’re prepared well, giving you confidence to train to the maximum of your abilities.
A warm up can also be a great way of weeding out any problematic injuries or niggles you may have. If you have an injury, then don’t train: it’s never worth the risk. Much better to spot the problems when you’re working at 20-40 per cent effort, than when you launch into an 80-95% effort training session.
Warming down is also really important, and again, widely overlooked. Coming to a sudden stop isn’t good for your body, and even if you’re exhausted, you need to find a way to keep moving to cool down, or you’ll really pay for it for the next 48 hours.
Some gentle stretches – especially on your legs – can really help your recovery and prevent muscle stiffness. A warm-down jog is great, though we really do mean a jog – barely above walking pace, stay as bouncy as you can manage and keep your legs moving. If you really can’t jog, then walking will do.
You should be keeping topped up with fluids throughout your exercise, but this becomes even more critical at the end of your session when the risk of nausea is reduced. Drink as much water as you can as this will also help recovery.