- BLOG -
Let's be honest. With all the overwhelming information out there telling us how to get results fast, it can be so easy to forget the simplest things when exercising.
Getting back to basics with your preparation and recovery can make all the difference when training.
We all know that we should warm up before playing sport and cool down afterwards, but why?
The aim of preparing your body for physical activity, and including a comprehensive cool down afterwards, is to reduce your risk of injury and to allow your muscles to recover and repair.
Physiologically, a warm up increases blood flow to your muscles.
This means that more oxygen, nutrients and chemicals are delivered to the muscle cells which allow you to perform at your best.
This extra blood flow also provides hydration to your cells, fascia (connective tissue) and skin layers. This is essential to allow the tissues to stretch as the muscles heat and expand during exercise.
A good warm up also kick starts your body's cooling process. As your body temperature increases during your warm up, you begin to sweat. This naturally cools the system so that once you increase intensity during competition, you don't overheat.
Your warm up also increases your mental stimulation. You begin to focus on the task at hand and sharpen your attention, moving you into your optimal performance zone.
It's important to tailor your warm up to your chosen sport and event. You must consider muscle groups used, types of movements, skills, intensity and length of the game/event.
A comprehensive cool down is imperative for optimal recovery.
It helps to flush waste products to decrease muscle tension, both when active and at rest, and decreases the development of trigger points (the "knots" you feel in your muscles).
If a muscle remains tight, adequate nutrients cannot be efficiently delivered to the muscle cells to repair them. It also slows the removal of toxins, leaving you feeling sore, fatigued and therefore decreasing performance. Tension decreases the ability of the muscle fibres to stretch and absorb shock, putting you at a higher risk of strains.
Your cool down should include slower movements such as walking, stretching and swimming to flush toxins.
Hot and cold contrast bathing is a great method to disperse and remove lactic acid. Contrast bathing involves exposing the muscles to heat for a short amount of time, and then immediately exposing them to cold. Eg. getting in to a spa for 1 minute and then an ice bath for 1 minute. This creates vasodilation and vasoconstriction - the blood vessels open up when in the spa, increasing blood flow to the site. Then, when in the ice bath, the vessels quickly close up and constrict, reducing blood flow.
This process is repeated over a timeframe of approximately 10-15 mins. The constant opening and closing of vessels acts as a muscle pump, squeezing toxins out of the muscle, moving new blood in, squeezing out toxins, moving new blood in again and so forth.
Massage works in a similar manner by heating the area and encouraging the flow of blood and oxygen to disperse waste products.
So as tempting as it may be to head straight to the gym and get stuck into your routine or run straight out on to the field to play, keep in mind that without warming up properly, you're increasing your risk of injury. By the same token, cooling down well after your event instead of sitting down to relax will improve your recovery time and reduce soreness, fatigue and risk of muscle strains and ultimately letting you train more effectively.
For more tips or information, visit us at The Cycling Fix and book in to our Treatment Clinic for a sports massage to aid in your preparation or recovery from your event.
The Cycling Fix Team
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