Why bother warming up????

Why bother warming up????

This is something we are all guilty of…….just putting on gym kit and heading off for a workout/run without properly warming up.  Did you know though that by warming up you can reduce your risk of injury and improve your performance.  Andy has written a nice blog about why we should all be doing a warm up before we exercise.

As a Sport Rehabilitator working in sport alongside my clinical work, I felt that this week’s blog topic should be the importance of warm ups and cool downs before and after completing activity and/or competing in sport.

Warm ups aim to gradually increase heart rate, blood flow and muscle temperature prior to activity. This can help to achieve physiological and psychological alertness and readiness to compete. Cool downs essentially do the opposite and gradually reduce heart rate and blood flow following intense periods of exercise, aiding the initial recovery process which can help to reduce symptoms of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) amongst other things.

Within high or elite level sport, the importance of warming up and cooling down is generally very much appreciated with most professional and semi-professional sporting clubs or organisations having trained professionals in place to oversee each of these activities before and after periods of activity. However, the likelihood is that the majority of people reading this blog will not have the same level of guidance and understanding of the topic which is why I am writing about it today.

The physiological effects of warm ups which I have already mentioned have been proven to reduce the overall likelihood of injury during activity. In addition to this, studies have successfully linked an increase in performance output with effective warm ups, as the process of practicing game/sport/activity related patterns can help to perform similar skills or movements to a higher level. It is important that warm ups have some level of specificity to the task which you are preparing for. This means targeting muscles and movements which you are likely to use during the task as this gives you the best chance of using said muscles and movements well when you need to.  You can use the simple RAMP protocol to adapt for any type of exercise.

R- raise (your heart rate slowly)
A- activate (get the big muscles that you will be using most working)
M- mobilise (move through the full range of the joint you will be using)
P- potentiate (fire up the neural system and the movement patterns you will be using)
If you follow this simple structure, you can adapt it for any form of exercise.

In addition, the physiological effects of cool downs such as reduced prevalence of DOMS and reduced heart rate can equally lead to and tie into psychological effects. Sport and exercise can have amazing psychological effects by stimulating the release of hormones such as serotonin and adrenaline. By cooling down, you can help your body and mind to gradually return to baseline, helping to avoid the physical and mental slump/tiredness often experienced post exercise.

So, here are three important things to remember when considering warm ups and cool downs:

  1. Don’t neglect either, as both can have considerable positive effects.
  2. Make them specific to the task you are completing
  3. Gradually Increase (Warm ups) and Gradually Decrease (Cool Downs) the intensity of your exercise to reduce injury risk and avoid rapid physiological/psychological responses.

If you would like to discuss warm ups/cool downs or anything else regarding sport, exercise and related injury then please do get in touch!


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