Coming back to a new school year for some may not only mean returning to school but also returning to sports. I’m sure you have heard your coaches, parents, or teammates mentioning the importance of warming up and cooling down.
Why are they important you may ask? To prevent injuries! A warm-up will not only reduce your risk of injury by increasing flexibility, range of motion, and increasing oxygen and blood flow, but it can also improve your performance.
What exactly is a warm-up? A warm-up can take many forms, but it should be dynamic and specific to your sport. To warm-up, you can perform the activity that you will be doing such as cycling or jogging, but at a lower intensity, and then gradually increase the intensity or speed.
This should be followed by some dynamic stretches to get your body used to more specific movements. When performing dynamic stretches you want to make sure that you are performing active movements, and not holding the stretches in place. You want to start slowly when performing the dynamic stretches, and then gradually increase the range of motion. Some great examples of dynamic stretches are lunges and squats.
Try to spend at least about 5-10 minutes warming up, but a longer time may be required depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise.
Once you are warmed up, you are ready to play! Just don’t forget to cool down once you are done to return your body back to homeostasis and to prevent an injury.
A cool down is similar to a warm-up in that it should also last for at least 5-10 minutes and can also be done by performing the activity at a lower intensity, followed by stretching. However, when it comes to stretching after the activity, static stretches are preferable. Static stretches will decrease your risk of muscle stiffness and cramping.
When performing static stretches you should be holding them in place without movement for a period of time, usually about 30 seconds.
You also want to do approximately 2-3 repetitions of the stretch. Some great examples of static stretches for a soccer player or a runner are hamstring, quadriceps, and calf stretches. If you’re cooling down after swimming or playing basketball, you should also focus on stretching out your arm muscles like your triceps.
To wrap up, remember to warm up and cool down, and you will be on your way to a great season!