GYM & TONEIC

Importance of a warm up & cool down

Static-Stretching

Warm your muscles up before you work! This is something I’ve wanted to blog about since I passed my PT and started working in the gym. I was guilty of not warming up sufficiently before I understood the importance of it, and as a consequence have had a fair few injuries over the years. Since working in the gym I could probably count on both hands the number of people I’ve seen warm up before they workout (this does not include anyone I’ve trained), I’ve become obsessive about it, that and drinking water… The number of people I’ve seen come in the gym and jump straight on the weights, heaviest weights too… You’re going to do yourself a serious injury, seriously!

If your muscles and joints aren’t warm, supple and ready to work, brace yourself to hear/feel a snap, ping or pull… Research generally agrees that the main way to prevent muscle injury is to raise the muscle temperature, as muscle is more elastic when warm and will stretch without damage.

Warm up

Start with CV. If you’re in the gym jump on a piece of cardiovascular kit – bike, cross trainer, treadmill… for 5-10 minutes, increasing the level/intensity gradually. You could also do a number of bodyweight exercises including jogging on the spot, high knees, butt kicks, star jumps and so on… Starting with CV gets your heart rate up, blood and oxygen pumping around your body which lubricates your joints.

And stretch… Now you’ve increased muscle temperature and got blood pumping around your body, lubricating your joints and limbs, stretch the muscles that you’re going to use in your workout. Stretches should be specific to your goals and workout, a mixture of dynamic (involving motion) and static (no motion).

Cool down 

At the end of your workout it’s important to do a cool down, gradually taking your heart rate and blood pressure back down to near resting rates. Research has shown that performing a cool down can reduce stiffness (DOMS) that can occur 24-72 hours after exercise. It also helps maintain circulation, preventing blood pooling (when exercise stops abruptly the heart continues to beat fast, pumping a lot of blood that pools in the lower legs). A cool down should be done over a 5-10 minute period, gradually decreasing intensity. You can do this by jumping back on the CV kit you used as part of your warm-up, followed by more stretches.

Some of the go-to stretches I do include:

  • Squat to overhead reach
  • Wood chop
  • Standing pectoral stretch
  • Standing latissimus and mid trapezius stretch
  • Standing quadriceps and hamstrings stretch
  • Lying glute and oblique stretch
  • Lying sphinx stretch
  • Cat stretch (my favourite!)

I also regularly use a foam roller, an instrument of torture (until you get used to it!) that I now can’t live without. Read all about the benefits of using one here…

Read more about the importance of drinking water here…

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Roll & relieve: benefits of using a foam roller

Foam roller meme

I’m not going to lie, the first time I used a foam roller in the gym I thought my back was going to snap. The love/hate I had for my PT reached new levels that day – it was a sure sign that my muscles were tight as hell and using one was long overdue.  

Despite initially regarding them as an instrument of torture, I sucked it up and continued to use it before and after workouts as advised.  I’m now a complete convert come preacher, and cannot recommend using one enough – to everyone and anyone who’ll listen. So much so, I bought my dad one for Christmas (he was less than impressed), but he’ll thank me one day!

Feeling ‘the burn’ after a workout is like a badge of honour, a sign you’ve trained hard and are getting stronger. However, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can hinder your training and increase risk of injury. I’ve learnt this the hard way over the years with numerous injuries (torn intercostal muscle THE worst!), because I didn’t stretch sufficiently or do any form of active recovery.

Self-myofascial release (self-massage) with a foam roller relieves tight muscles by smoothing out the knots and encouraging blood flow to the area, returning them to normal function. It hurts! But works… it’s uncomfortable but bearable and gets easier over time.  Rolling daily or 3/4 times per week could save you a fortune in physio fees if/when your muscles finally give in!

Here’s a few exercises I do…

Hamstring roll – I regularly find myself walking like John Wayne, I do this most days. To roll your hamstrings, place the roller beneath your thigh and roll from your lower bum to your knee.

Hamstring roll

Glute roll  the biggest muscle group in the body, I’m trying to make mine much bigger! To roll your glutes, sit on the roller and rest one foot on the opposite knee. Place your weight onto the side with the resting foot and roll back and forth.

Glute roll

Quad roll – to roll your quads, start in a plank position with the roller below your upper thigh. Place weight on one side of your body, then roll forwards so that the foam roller moves towards your knee.

Quad roll

Back roll – I find this most satisfying, my back is always in knots from the gym, bad posture and sitting at my desk. To roll your back, lie on your back and place the roller below your shoulders, then roll towards your ribs and lower back, back and forth.

Back roll

My foam roller cost around £15 from eBay, they come in all shapes and sizes but ultimately they all do the same thing – a great investment.

foam roller

Happy rolling!

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