Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down when You Workout

By Dominic Pereira

We know getting the motivation to actually get your workout in for the day is already tough on its own without adding in a warm-up and cool-down routine as well. Performing these routines is more than just preventing your risk of injury and improving performance.

Let’s explore the importance of including these routines pre and post workout:

Importance and Benefits of Warming Up

Often overlooked or skipped to save time, warming up before any workout is beneficial in any training program and has numerous benefits such as:

Improved Performance — When you’re exercising, blood flow to your muscles increases by about 70% to 75% and ensures the capillaries (blood vessels) open up. With more blood flow there’s an increase in your muscle temperature. This allows more oxygen to be released allowing you to perform even better in your workouts.

Improved Blood Flow — As mentioned above, improved blood flow after warming up for about ten minutes opens up the blood capillaries. With dilated blood vessels, the increased blood flow helps put less stress on your heart.

Improved Oxygen — While exercising, your muscles need more oxygen so warming up properly will allow oxygen to be released more readily from your blood.

Increased Muscle Contraction — A warm-up helps raise your body’s temperature which improves your muscle metabolism and nerve transmission. As a result, your muscles will perform better.

Preventing Injury — Because warm muscles contract and release more efficiently, it’ll reduce the risk of injury (think overstretching a cold muscle).

Preparing Your Mind — A warm-up can help you focus on the activity at hand, how your body moves and feels which will help you improve your skill and technique.

Hormonal Changes — During a warm-up, your body increases the production of hormones like cortisol and epinephrine which regulates your body’s energy production.

Should You Warm up Before Yoga?

Funny enough, you’d think you don’t need to warm up before yoga since you’ll be stretching, right? Well, it depends. “Do I warm-up before yoga or is it the yoga routine that warms me up?” It’s sort of equivalent to the chicken and egg theory.

If you’re practising yoga on your own, it will differ to joining a yoga class. Since the instructor controls the environment and the yoga practice, and since not all yogis’ bodies are the same, they’ll incorporate an appropriate warm-up routine.

A popular warm-up incorporated into classes is Sun Salutations.

In the end, you are the only one who knows your body best, how it feels and what it can handle, so if you feel like you need to add an extra warm-up, then you go for it. The idea is to be kind, go slow, and listen to your body.

Other factors to consider if you should warm-up before yoga includes:

What type of yoga you are practising. For static yoga poses like Restorative, warming up isn’t crucial. On the other hand, yoga styles like Vinyasa Flow require a bit more muscular effort, so a proper warm-up is needed to prepare your body for the movements.

The type of environment and if it’s warm. A warm environment will have a big impact on your body’s temperature. Although not really the eco-friendly option, your body won’t need to create its own heat. In a colder climate, you’ll have to warm up to generate heat for your body.

How your body feels. As we know, people’s bodies differ where some are naturally warmer than others. So if your body is a bit on the colder side, an effective, quick warm-up will do the trick to get you ready for your asanas.

Different Types of Warm-ups

Dynamic Warm-up
Doing some mobility movements and dynamic stretching where you stretch through a range of motion is an effective way to warm up your muscles for your workout.

Instead of simply holding a stretch (static stretching), warm up your muscles with dynamic stretching. It will improve your flexibility and increase your range-of-motion in various parts of your body.

Some great examples of dynamic stretching include:

  • Arm swings
  • Shoulder rotations
  • Leg swings
  • Lunges
  • Body-weight squats

Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is another great method of warming up and has gained a lot of popularity over the years in the fitness community.

Foam rolling makes use of a piece of hard foam to help stretch tight tendons and releases fascia (connective tissue). It helps break up scar tissue which helps increase blood flow to the problem areas.

Although it’s not a comfortable method, there are various types of rollers, some smooth and others have hard ridges or nobs. It’s an effective method to warm up your quads, buttocks, calves, adductors, and hamstrings. It’s also possible to roll your upper body.

Importance and Benefits of Cooling Down

Now that we’ve talked about the importance of properly warming up your body, it’s time to look at why cooling down is just as crucial.

Faster Recovery — After an intense workout, lactic acid builds up in your muscles and your body takes time to clear it out. When you’re cooling down, you’re helping your body release lactic acid which helps speed up your body’s recovery period.

Reduce DOMS — DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness can prevent you from exercising in the future. Cooling down after your workout session can help alleviate excessive soreness, allowing you to bounce back in time for your next workout.

Types of Cool Downs

Static Stretching
Static stretching is a popular cooldown method after a vigorous workout. This method also helps increase your flexibility which will result in better performance and decreased risk of injuring yourself in the future.

Try holding each stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds. The stretch should be strong but not painful. Although stretching can help prevent injury while working out, you can still hurt yourself if you’re not gentle or pushing your body too hard.

Walking for about five to ten minutes after your workout will help your heart slow down, helping you cool down after your intense workout.

An efficient warm-up and cool-down routine are just as important for your health as getting your workout in. Preparing your body for an intense workout and allowing it to cool off again will ensure your performance increases to allow your body to get healthier and stronger. It also prepares you mentally for your workout and allows you afterwards to enjoy the benefits of your session and to have a “well done!” moment.

If you’re looking for a relaxing yoga class where you’re enjoying a mindful flow or you want an intense workout to get your heart rate up, get in touch. From yoga, HIIT, and Pilates to wellness and beauty, let us help you reach your goals.