Warming up and Stretching (Injury Prevention)
Warming up prior to exercising or an event is crucial in preventing injuries, as warm muscles are less susceptible to injury. Muscles that have not been used, as a result of sitting at your desk all day for example, are very tight. Combine this with some cold winter weather, and your muscles will be extra tight. If you immediately start playing a sport or working out, your cold, un-stretched muscles are much more likely to tear. This is why it is important to warm up your muscles and stretch them out properly prior to performing your activity or working out.
Your warm up should last between 10 to 20 minutes, but should not be any longer and should be completed 20 minutes prior to your activity. If you perform your activity more than 20 minutes after you have warmed up, it renders your warm up useless.
Your warm up should be specific to the activity you are doing. Furthermore, simple static stretching will not suffice. In fact, static stretching a cold muscle could actually lead to injury as well. Rather, a dynamic warm up will be the most beneficial. Dynamic stretching means slow, controlled movements rather than remaining still and holding a stretch. This may include simple movements like arm circles and hip rotations, flowing movements as in yoga, or walking or jogging exercises. Proper technique is very important as poor technique that is not anatomically correct puts you at higher risk for injury.
Here is an example of a dynamic warm up:
- 2-3 minutes of jump rope
- 50 jumping jacks
- 20 body weight squats
- 5 lunges
- 10-20 push-ups (scale based on your level of fitness)
- 5 minutes walking/elliptical/biking
Your activity or work out should be followed by dynamic stretching for a cool down. The aim is to gradually lower body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate following exercise or activity. A proper cool down helps prevent muscle stiffness and soreness.