We regularly work with people who are managing pain due to chronic conditions, recovering from surgery and folks who have overextended themselves during their workouts. One of our goals is to help people before they injure themselves by educating them about what they can do before a personal record becomes a personal injury. This month we’re going to talk about how what you do before and after your workout is just as important as what you do at the gym.
Regular exercise is a major part of keeping on a healthy path. Whether it’s walking, running or power lifting, getting up and moving keeps our body systems working together like a well-oiled machine. Like machines, our bodies need the proper care and maintenance in order to keep up with performance. Warming up before an activity and cooling down afterwards can make a big difference in our exercise efforts. For some of us, it’s hard enough to carve time out of our day to get up and active, especially when temperatures are dropping and there are so many streaming services to keep us contentedly snuggled on our couch. Here’s why adding a few extra minutes before and after your workout of choice is so important:
- Easing into a cardio burn scales the stress on your body. Slamming into full throttle may look cool on action movies, but that kind of activity can put a lot of strain on your heart and blood vessels and muscles which can lead to injury. Warming up gradually increases the blood flow to muscles before you kick into high gear and cooling down after gradually gets your body ready to rest and relax.
- Tissues at rest tend to stick together. Our bodies are full of connective tissue which separates all our components by wrapping them in a protective barrier. Organs, muscles, bones, every part of our body has this connective tissue or fascia around it. One of the key functions of fascia is to make it possible for our muscles and internal mechanics to slide smoothly against one another. Warm ups help get the connective tissue softened and ready for movement.
- Flexibility prevents injury. Our bodies generally enjoy moving. Once we make the decision to get to the gym, the endorphins start to kick in and we might get overzealous and push past our limits. Warming up before activities increases blood supply, gets our fascia ready to move, encourages the extensibility of our muscle fibers and helps to safely extend our limits. Some light stretching after cool down takes advantage of loose and limber tissues and can help improve flexibility. The more flexible we are, the less prone we are to things like tendonitis and ligament tears.
As with most things, there’s a right way and a wrong way to warm up and cool down. Kyle Knutson is our resident Certified Personal Trainer. He’s got some suggestions for how you can put a little time in before and after your workout to maximize your cardio or strength training efforts.
- Wake your muscles up with dynamic movements. Jumping jacks, arm circles and high knees are all good examples of things you can do before your workout to encourage range of motion and increase blood flow. Choosing a movement that focuses on the muscles you will be using will maximize your workout.
- Save the stretching for later. I had always thought stretching before a workout was a good thing. Kyle explained stretching as part of your warm up sends the muscles mixed messages and can increase the potential for injury. He made the analogy of silly putty; if you stretch silly putty before you warm it up, it will snap. The same thing can happen to the muscle fibers which can lead to injury. Muscle fibers also have different sensors to tell them what they need to do. Stretch receptors tell muscle fibers to elongate and contractile sensors tell the muscles to contract. When stretch receptors are engaged, the muscle fibers work at slightly less capacity for a short period of time. Muscles can’t stretch and contract, so avoiding stretching before a workout will keep the muscles focused on building strength.
- Be kind to your heart and start slow. Starting with a slow 10 to 15 minute warm up that gradually increases in intensity will “prime the pump” by incrementally increasing your heart rate. You’ll know you’re pacing yourself correctly when you can still carry on a conversation during the warm up but you have to work a little harder to do it.
- Cool down, don’t just stop. When your workout is done, take 10 to 15 minutes to bring your heart rate back down to normal. A gradual cool down smoothly transitions your body and heart rate and is less shocking to your system than a hard stop.
- End with a stretch. Muscles tense up after a good workout. Taking the time to stretch at the end of a session helps take advantage of the warmed up muscle tissue to increase flexibility and improves and protects your range of motion. Muscle fibers tear and rebuild after a workout and a gentle stretch helps with that process.
Anna is a Certified Health and Life Coach and had some tips on the importance of nutrition and an active lifestyle.
- Water is where it’s at. Water is always important for our bodies. On an average day we should be drinking at least half our body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs. you should drink 75 ounces of water a day. Working out increases your metabolism which requires water and amps up your perspiration. Increasing your water intake will help your body recover.
- Healthy protein has power. Protein can help muscles to build and repair. The average sedentary man needs 56 grams of protein per day and the average sedentary woman needs 46 grams per day. That seems like a lot! Anna has a wide variety of Shaklee™ products that are designed to increase your water and protein intake and can help your body to recover, repair and restore. Not all proteins are created equal. Healthy types like plant protein will help your muscles and your wellness goals. Not sure what counts as healthy protein? Anna can clarify and guide you to the best options.
Call our office at 715-861-7177 for more helpful tips on how to maximize your exercise regime or learn more about how nutrition can help boost your workout goals. Anna and Kyle are both excited to work with you to build your personalized workout and nutrition plans.
Gunnars, Kris. “Protein Intake – How Much Protein Should You Eat per Day?” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-protein-per-day. Accessed 24 November 2020.