Warm it Up, Stretch it Out

young-woman-stretching

This is a guest post written by Victoria Abrams.

Many times, a warm up is likened to heating up your car in the cold weather. This is a good way to convey the idea that warming up your body prior to any physical activity is very important.

Along with warming up, stretching at the end of a workout is a very beneficial habit to acquire. Remembering your warm up, and cooling down with stretching can help to ensure many years of injury free exercise.

The Warm Up

The process of warming up is integral to having a positive workout experience.

  • Muscles get to ease into strenuous exercise. This is important for preventing injuries and muscle strains/pulls. Warming up the musclesthat you are about to use helps the muscles get primed and ready to perform the movements that you will be executing.
  • Your mind gets time to focus. When beginning a workout chances are you are not completely focused on the task. Whether you came from work or home, it is very likely that there are still some residual thoughts pertaining to your life outside the gym. During the warm up your mind has time to come into focus on what you are doing right then. This will help you to be safe and smart, thus avoiding injury.
  • The heart gets a chance to increase blood circulation gradually. During your warm up, the body systems get a chance to synchronize and perfect their teamwork before diving into vigorous exertion.

Stretching

Stretching has an incredible number of benefits, both after exercise and on its own.

  • Stretching lengthens the muscle.  By stretching and creating long muscles, you are doing a great service to yourself. Regularly stretched muscles can lead to an increased range of motion in the joints and better flexibility. Both of these elements factor into injury resistance and an improved quality of life for years to come. In addition, this can lead to an increase in coordination.
  • Muscle soreness can be reduced by stretching.  When you stretch your muscles blood flow to the area is increased. An increase in blood flow means the muscle will receive sustenance and the blood will carry out toxins that can cause achy muscles.
  • Stretching can reduce stress.  From the fluidity of the motions, to the deep breathes that accompany a good stretch, all elements come together in a way that will lighten your stress load. Of course, the mood boosting endorphins released during exercise do not hurt either.
  • Loosening and lengthening muscles can help your posture. Having tight muscles that are painful or victim to aches can cause you not to hold your best form. Alternatively, well-stretched and strong muscles make it easier for you to maintain excellent posture all day long.

If you take an active approach to your health and are disregarding your warm up or stretching, you are essentially ignoring an infinitely important part of your workout.

To take advantage of the above benefits, warm up for approximately 5 minutes before intense exercise. If you are lifting heavy weights, do two warm up sets of about 10-15 repetitions each, for each muscle group you will be hitting that day.

To secure even more positive benefits from stretching; try a yoga class. Yoga offers an excellent mix of stretching and strengthening. The best part is that a person at any level of conditioning can do it. Incorporating these elements into your regimen will help to insure that you derive the most benefits from your routine.

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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