MHM Expert Tips: Warm Up and Cool Down

It’s always good practice to warm up and cool down before and after every training session, and in this MHM Expert Tips article, we explain why…

Warm up

warm-up-cool-down-tipsBefore you set off for a run/workout, it is important to ensure your body and muscles are warm and ready to go. Your heart rate should gradually increase, your breathing will be faster and more blood (oxygen) will be sent to the muscles to warm them up. The warm up allows greater range of movement and will help reduce the risk of injury, which is why it is so important.

Cold muscles can be tight and when put under any repetitive strain can easily tear. Muscles are key to our movement, being wrong footed having not warmed up properly could spell disaster.

Typically warm ups should include dynamic (moving) exercises and stretches that mobilise the foot, ankle, knee and hip joints as well as warm up the leg muscles and glutes, such as squats, lunges, high knees, leg curls, and which use the muscles you are going to be using in your main workout. Include upper body movements with the arms and back too. Static stretching is best for after the workout as this indicates you are switching the muscles off.

Make sure you allow enough time to warm up. In summer months aim for 10 minutes before you set off. In the winter, wherever possible try and warm up inside, if this is not possible then increase your warm up to at least 15-20 minutes. It’s harder to get sufficiently warm in colder conditions.  If you are in your later years you may also need to take more time warming up.

A quick word about breathing…

warm-up-cool-down-tipsAre you a shallow breather? This is where the air and oxygen go into the top part of the lungs only. This type of breathing can result in a tight diaphragm and limit the amount of oxygen you draw in by a whopping 70%! The diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle that sits right underneath the rib cage and moves downward when we inhale and upward when we exhale. To improve your breathing capacity, try deep breathing exercises that really get the diaphragm working. Inhale through the nose for a count of four then exhale through the mouth for a count of four. Aim to inhale air and oxygen into all sides of your rib cage, chest and back and right down to your pelvic floor! Think of it like a ball expanding inside your chest. It’s great for destressing too!

Cool down

At the end of your run/workout, it is equally important to cool down properly. Muscles can get tight and you may experience the dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). You also need to bring your heart rate down gradually and not suddenly stop. Slower dynamic movements, such as walking with the addition of static stretching of the muscles worked is recommended.