During the next few posts, I’m going to go over elements to a great workout. These are what I have found to be important in my experience. You might have some thoughts on expanding my list so please leave that in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.
There are many elements to a great workout. Two very important parts that I’d like to highlight are not only important, but they can be under appreciated. These two elements are the Warm-up and Cool-Down.
Why are they so important you ask? Well, stick around and I’ll tell ya.
They are the bookends of a workout. They aren’t often highlighted and yet they are important. Have I been in a rush to skip these because of time? Yes. But do I know these two elements are vital? Yes again. So it’s a struggle to give these elements the respect they deserve. And when I don’t give them the time of day, my body lets me know! I know making more of an effort to incorporate them will help me reap the full benefit of my workout. Both the warm-up and cool-down do not take a lot of time to do in the grand scheme of things but it is easy to skip them.
To make sure we prioritize them, let’s remember what their functions are.
The warm-up helps us warm our body and muscles up. This enables us to perform better and activate more muscles during our workout. It helps us get into the groove of a workout rather than come in cold and tight.
The cool-down on the other hand prepares our body to go back to our daily activities that aren’t so strenuous. It helps our body prepare for the restoration after a workout. Think about what happens during and after a workout. During the workout, we are pushing our muscles to work hard and in turn we break down our muscles. (Don’t get freaked out.) Then when we allow our bodies to rest and re-fuel, our body miraculously rebuilds itself. And it rebuilds itself stronger than before because it knows what the previous demands were and it wants to be prepared for next time. During a cool-down, we are slowly cooling our body down and stretching our muscles so that they don’t stay in a tight state. Tight muscles can cause pain or injury and utilizing stretches after a workout can help to lengthen the muscles back to their before workout state or even better. Just to make it clear, during workouts, we ask our muscles to do work. When muscles do work, they shorten in length to produce power. But to keep our muscles healthy and supple, we need to lengthen them after we ask them to do work. We can’t just leave our muscles tight and expect them to be able to produce that same amount of power as before.
Think of a car. (I can’t believe I’m using a car analogy. First because I don’t know much about cars and second, I’m no car geek. I use a car to go from point A to point B. But here it goes.)
A car works best if you start it and wait for a minute to start driving. And a car works best if you ease on the gas at the beginning and then build momentum and speed after that initial “warm-up” phase. But if you demand that the car start and then go to 60 mph within a few seconds, it will do its best and probably be okay the first few times. Asking a car to do this repeatedly will inevitably wear on it and the car won’t last long.
As far as the cool-down in car-speak, think of a car stopping as it’s cool-down. You can slam on the breaks and it should work the first few times. But over time you will wear out the break pads and once those are gone, you’ll start grinding the metal brakes. Then it’s a matter of time before your car won’t break when it needs to and there is where we have trouble.
So if you are the newest model on the road, this might not apply to you. But if you want your “car” to last a while and you have already been around the block several times, you might want to pay attention to the warm up and cool down phase of your workout.
Tune in next week as we go over what a warm up and cool down might look like for you.
And if this resonates with anyone or you have a comment, leave them below!!