Warming Up and Cooling Down

Dec 03

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Walking is known as a great destresser. However, when most people start walking, they start with great gusto, high energy, and bounce right into “power walking” before giving their body a chance to catch up. This can quickly lead to overtraining, the symptoms of which include:

  • poor athletic performance
  • structural injury secondary to muscle dysfunction
  • metabolic problems such as fatigue, infection, bone loss, sexual dysfunction, altered mood states and others.

In order to get the maximum benefit from your walking routine, start slow. Make sure you get a really good warm up and cool down done (minimum 15 minutes of each) and making your warm up mostly about stress release, and your cool down mostly about clarity and focus.

Hate the warm up/cool down part? Well, here’s why it’s important:

Warming Up

When you’re resting – i.e. not working out – the body makes sure the blood is mostly circulating through the brain, nervous system, organs, glands, intestines, etc.

When you’re working out the body diverts about 80% of the blood to the working muscles. This means your other systems suddenly find themselves with a very limited blood supply, which causes major stress.

To avoid the stress, you need to make this shift a gradual one. It takes approximately 10-15 minutes for the shift to happen properly, and it needs a level of activity much slower than the workout ahead.

Warming up properly creates the following benefits:

  • more blood flow to those muscles that are working hard
  • a rise in available oxygen
  • greater mechanical efficiency in your joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • an increased range of motion in all of your joints
  • the release of stored fat so that it can be used as an energy source in your aerobic muscles (important for fat loss!)
  • greater lung capacity, and therefore more efficient breathing
  • greater activity in your neuromuscular system

Cooling Down

The cool down period starts the recovery process from the workout. It’s the recovery time that actually creates the improvement you’re looking for in your workout. By cooling down slowly (another 10-15 minutes minimum) you will:

  • prevent physical and chemical stress which leads to injury
  • improves oxygenation and circulation in the muscles
  • helps remove blood lactate

Warming up and cooling down should be considered part of your total workout time. So, if you’re doing a 1 hour workout, 30 minutes of warming up/cooling down (15 minute warm-up, 15 minute cool down) is part of that 1 hour workout. If you’re going to workout more than 2 hours total time, increase the warm-up/cool-down period to twenty-thirty minutes.

If you’re just starting out with fitness, start by simply mastering this process. I would suggest a simple 10 minute workout to start with so you get the right feel. Use the following exercise to make the most of this time:

5 minute warm-up: The point of this first five minutes is to completely de-stress.

  • walk as slowly as you can for 5 minutes, breathing in for 4 beats – completely filling your lungs – and breathing out for 8 – making sure your lungs are squeezed empty. To make it even more effective, use some finger tapping :
    • on beat one tap your index and thumb together
    • on beat two tap your middle finger and thumb together
    • on beat three tap your ring finger and thumb together
    • on beat four tap your pinkie and thumb together
    • repeat the process starting back with the index finger and thumb
    • Use a fairly strong, sharp pressure as you tap.
    • Use this time to conscioulsy release stress from your shoulders, neck, and abdomen, moving your head and neck, consciously releasing your abdominal muscles, and gently stretching anything that feels tight.

The 5 minute cool down: The point of this second five minutes is to gain clarity and focus for whatever lies ahead in your day. For this level, we are simply going to reverse the pattern:

  • Walk as slowly as you can for 5 minutes, breathing in for 8 beats- completely filling your lungs – and breathing out for 4 – making sure your lungs are squeezed empty. Include the same finger tapping.

The speed should be about what you’d be walking if you were holding the hand of a “not yet walking on their own” toddler;  slow enough to almost make you unsteady. It feels ridiculously slow, but you need to consciously slow everything down in order to speed things up! And you need to consciously slow down to engage the recovery process.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll add another breathing exercise to your warm up and speed things up a little. For now practice this until it’s second nature. If you already have a walking routine, make this the first and last 5 minutes of your routine.

Any comments, questions, or concerns? Please post them in the comment section below.

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Happy Walking!

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The advice offered in this blog is based upon the author’s own experience. The author is not engaged in rendering professional advice or services to the readers. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions in this blog are not intended to replace a consultation with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision. The author shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity that incurs any loss, damage, or injury caused directly, or indirectly from any information or suggestion in this Program.
* Any link with an asterisk (*) denotes an affiliate link or a source with some kind of payback for me.
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