Warming Up & Cooling Down
After talking to a buddy about why things feel so tight, I want to remind all you beautiful athletes to take care of your body. While this encompasses a number of different topics, THIS ONE is specifically on warming up and cooling down...
Warming up before activity increases the blood flow to the muscles which results in lower risk of injury and improved performance. There are some other important benefits to warming up but your top two "things"...you want to be stronger and/or faster and you don't want to get hurt. Right. WARM UP! Warming up can include a light jog - engage those muscle fibers! I prefer a routine of jogging in place and then executing dynamic stretches (vs. static stretching). Never (static) stretch a cold muscle!!
Dynamic stretching: designed to take a joint or a muscle through a challenging and repetitive motion, moving a body part further with each repetition. Reducing hip stiffness prior to starting a run or ride will reduce the risk of the dreaded overuse injury. Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to exercise to prepare the joints for movement and muscles for optimal activation.
Static stretching: designed to hold a position for a joint or a muscle that is minimally challenging. The focus is on relaxing the body part being stretched and letting it go further on its own. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue; conversely, done prior to activity, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.
Your perfect warm up is probably going to be different than my perfect warm up. Much like anything in our sport, it's an individual process. Practice, experiment, and TRI new warm ups until you find what works (and by works I mean feels) best.
Cooling down after activity allows the body to gradually return to a resting state. Coming to an abrupt stop after exercise can cause dizziness due to a rapid blood pressure drop. A proper cool down has been shown to accelerate the recovery process and again, prevents injury!!, and prevents venous pooling after exercise. A light jog or walk is a great cool down and of course, STATIC STRETCHING.
My recommendation, get into a routine that works for you. Make warming up and cooling down a part of that routine. It will become second nature for every workout. Warm up. Workout. Cool down. Yeah, it's that simple!!