Maybe it's just us, but when we're all pumped up for our fun, fast-paced workouts, it can be tough to remember to slow down and warm up properly. 🤷♀️
What's the point, anyway? Why not just get to the intense stuff? As it turns out, taking the time to warm up your muscles is an incredibly important part of your workout. And, as a bonus, incorporating a warm-up and cool-down is definitely an additional step you can take to make an at-home workout feel more ~legit~!! 😂
Let's take a look at just why warming up and cooling-down is just so crucial, shall we?
Warming up is, quite literally, the process of getting your body's temperature higher slowly so that your muscles aren't snapping into tough exercises while still cold. ❄️ 🔥
We've found that sometimes, on days when we don't want to work out quite as much, just talking ourselves into getting warmed up can do the trick.
Warming up is easier than working out, and by the time we've gotten a few dynamic stretches and light cardio movements done, we're usually more excited about pushing our bodies to see results!!! 💫
One type of movement you'll see frequently in warm-ups is joint rotation, which is why we do a lot of arm circles and simple stretches over and over before more intense workouts. Aside from being easy motions designed to raise your core temperature slowly and safely, joint rotations have another, less visible effect.
When done over and over for a few minutes, joint rotations actually lubricate the inside of your joints (with a liquid called synovial fluid). This makes your joints WAY EASIER to move later on in your work out...increasing your flexibility and coordination by, like, a lot. 🤓
(Picture the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz before and after he got his knees and shoulders oiled, and you'll get the picture!) 🧘♀️
Because of this effect, it's a good idea to warm up with dynamic stretches, or ones with lots of fluid motion. They literally help your body ramp up from rest mode safely, making the rest of your workout more effective (and, for some motions, more possible!).
One of the main reasons a pre-workout warm-up is so important is that it protects your muscles from injury!! Jumping right into intense crunches and cardio moves when your body is cold is a HUGE shock to your system. 😳 Think about turning your car on for the first time in a while: it needs a second to rev up before you head to the highway, right? Forcing your muscles to go from 0-60 when they're not expecting it can result in cramps and pulls and tears - not our idea of fun!!
That type of stress can, in turn, seriously mess up your muscles and result in longer-term injuries which can require taking a break from intense physical activity. Basically, warming protects your muscles and keeps you safe; not doing it could make working out difficult and maybe even impossible over time. 🥺
Okay, so you've just completed a crazy-intense workout; you're just starting to feel a little sore, you're thirsty, and you just want to rest and recover. But wait! First, you gotta cool down...the RIGHT way. 🤨
Let's go back to the car acceleration analogy: Just as your body needs a minute to go from 0-60 safely, your body needs time to slow to a safe stop. Slamming on the brakes (or finishing your heart-pumping workout) and then slumping on a couch immediately may be tempting, but taking a minute or two to ease the transition is better for your body.
Remember how dynamic stretches are best for pre-workout? Once your workout is done, static stretches are the way to go. Stretching out your muscles should feel AMAZING at this point, and it'll help continue the good feels. Stretching now will help reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles, making you feel less sore later. 🙌 ✌️
Now: Let's talk about your heart!! 💛
After your workout, it's probably thumping out of your chest. (Expected, but not particularly comfortable.) Gently tapering off your workout with a few minutes' walk after a run or a few stretches after Pilates can tell your heart to slow down with physiological body cues.
Think about it: It's probably nicer to take a minute or two to stretch it out instead of laying on the ground feeling your heart thumping crazily, anyway! 🙆♀️
If you were completing a Pilates or yoga-based workout, you might have been focused on your breath the whole time; if not, a cool-down is a good time to get those benefits in. Breathing deeply can help your body get out of the fight-or-flight mode your body was in during your workout. It can help your heart begin to pump at slower, more normal rates, and it increases oxygenation in your blood (which can help jumpstart recovery of your tired muscles). 🙌
Let's talk about an intangible but SUPER important benefit of exercise for a moment: CONFIDENCE. With exercise, you can enjoy an increased sense of achievement and success: You did the hard thing (go you!!). By taking a cool-down, you take a moment to celebrate that accomplishment and give yourself credit for what you have done. 🥰
This can help you feel more relaxed, and it can also help your brain associate those feel-good endorphins with the act of working out...which will make you want to work out more next time!!! ✨👊 🤪
Knowing just how best to take care of yourself can empower you to lead exactly the life that you want. Start by giving yourself a few extra minutes to ease in and out of workouts. It'll be worth it!!! 💛
We can't promise we'll never skip a warm-up or cool-down again, but now we'll definitely know what we're missing (and why we feel SO MUCH better when we take the time to do it!)
What are your favorite ways to warm up or cool down???