Aside from your actual workout, there are other areas to consider as part of your overall exercise routine. We can break these up and schedule them around our workout as follows:
- Warm up
- Pre workout stretching
- Cool down
- Post workout stretching
I’m looking at the pre workout warm up and stretch in this article.
Warming up is critical to a better overall performance and reduces the risk of injury. It’s essential to a good workout. The safest way to exercise is to gradually raise the body’s temperature and loosen the muscles before starting into your full body workout. That’s what warm ups are designed to do. You can warm up with a light run, using the cross trainer, completing some jumping jacks or a combination of the above. Five minutes should be enough time to allocate to a warm up.
Once your warm up is complete you can start the pre-workout stretching. You’ll often hear the terms static stretching and dynamic stretching mentioned. Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest while dynamic stretches are active. So, instead of simply pulling or pushing your legs and arms while standing still or seated, with dynamic stretches you are constantly moving. This constant motion helps the body maintain a higher core body temperature and therefore can be viewed as an extension of your warm up. Dynamic stretching can support us in gaining flexibility and achieving full range of motion which is exactly what we’re looking for so we will use only dynamic stretches as part of our pre workout stretch.
I have to admit that up until recently I was terrible for warming up and stretching before a workout. I was probably short on time and didn’t want to waste that valuable exercise time on warming up or stretching! Since I’ve been training with Philip Kavanagh though, I’ve been learning the importance of warming the body up and stretching before any kind of a workout. Philip is a qualified neuro-muscular therapist and pilates teacher so he has a lot of knowledge in the area. Take a look at the video Phil and I put together which includes a few example stretches for you to try:
There you have it, five simple stretches that you can use before your own workout. We complete these stretches before our Functional Training classes but in reality they can be used before any aerobic exercises or resistance training workouts. We usually allow 10 to 15 minutes for our warm up and stretching exercises before getting stuck in to an exercise circuit. I used these pre workout stretches before every workout on my 30 Day Challenge.
A cool down and post workout stretch are important too and we’ll cover these in more detail in a future article and video but generally speaking static stretches are a great way to cool down after a training session.
Anyone can be flexible if they work hard at it. Some people (not me!) are naturally flexible while others struggle to gain even a little but everybody can get there. It takes regular commitment and persistence for the muscles to respond and adapt; your body will thank you in the long run!
Yours in health,