Post in collaboration with HCA
You will already know how important a proper warm up is for your exercise routine. It raises your heart rate slowly, minimising stress, and also ensures that you warm up your muscles for maximum suppleness and efficiency. Slow and gentle will help you win any race, and as your fitness is a lifetime aim and goal, it’s better to pay close attention to ways that will allow you to do it with minimum strain and preferably no injury. Think of your body as being like a machine – you wouldn’t attempt to drive your car at speed from a cold start, not unless you were happy with frequent garage visits.
Your warm up should take at least five minutes, or even longer if you are planning on a really hard workout. If you’re planning on a run, a gentle walk or run is enough to get you going; the same principle applies if you’re cycling, or using an elliptical trainer.
In addition to gentle jogging to warm up, don’t neglect stretches, which ease pressure on your joints, and also allow you a greater range of motion. In fact, stretches should form a crucial part of your cool down routine as well. It’s important to lower your heart rate as slowly as you raised it at the beginning of your workout – sudden drops in blood pressure and heart rate can lead to light-headedness, or even fainting. Stretching also helps to reduce muscle cramping and that familiar ‘day after a hard workout’ feeling, which is caused by a build up of lactic acid.
Your cool down after your workout is the same principle, but in reverse; slow down your exercise intensity until your heart rate dips below 120 beats per minute. This should take five minutes or so, but don’t cut this short if it takes longer. You should also take your time over your stretches, holding them for anything up to 30 seconds each side. If you feel like you need more, then do more – your stretches should never be painful, and don’t forget to breathe. A good cool down can save you from feeling awful the next day. Despite a terrible run, I felt good the day after the Marathon Day Marathon!
It’s important to consult your doctor before you start any new exercise regime, particularly if you are very overweight, very unfit, or have any underlying medical conditions that need to be monitored closely. Your GP will be able to give you advice on a healthy weight, and the kind of diet you might need to follow to get there. Sometimes, however, it’s just not convenient to get to your doctor, or there may be particular concerns where you’d like to see a specialist rather more quickly than the referral process may allow, especially if you have picked up an injury during your exercise regime that is stopping you from exercising, or even from going about your day to day life pain-free. Seeing a specialist at a private hospital such as Harley Street at UCH – London will speed up the process and make sure that you get back to your best as quickly as possible, and with the very best advice for you.
How do you cool down after a workout?