Warming Up and Cooling Down*

Help yourself keep fit for exercise
Whether you're a gym regular or just starting a fitness regime read the information below to make sure injury
doesn’t interrupt your fitness routine.

• Increase training gradually, don’t try to do too much too soon, especially if
  you are not used to exercise.   If you are overweight or unfit, seek advice
  before starting a fitness routine.
• Over-training and repetitive activities can cause injuries. Pain during or after
  exercise is a warning sign don’t   ignore it.
• Make sure you have a rest day during the week.
• Warming up before you work out and cooling down afterwards are important
  parts of a fitness routine   and can   help you avoid injury.

Warming up for exercise

By warming up before exercise you increase blood flow to muscles and other soft tissues, an important factor in avoiding damage to ligaments, muscles and tendons, including sprains and strains. Your routine should include cardiovascular exercises to increase your heart rate gradually and stretches to prepare muscles and increase flexibility.
• Start with five to 10 minutes of a light activity - fast walking, slow jogging on
  the spot or skipping. This should raise your  body temperature and increase
  your heart rate and bring you out in a slight sweat.
• Then try stretches to prepare muscles in your arms, legs and back.
  Stretching should be a gentle movement, don’t try  to force your muscles by
  bouncing or over reaching. These movements should not cause pain. See the
  basic stretch methods detailed below.

Cooling down
Cooling down helps your body return to normal and should also prevent next day muscle stiffness. Try marching on the spot, for about five to 10 minutes gradually decreasing effort until your heart rate returns to resting level. Then repeat the stretches you did when warming up. You should find you can go further!

How to deal with injuries
Many minor sports injuries can be self-treated and won’t interrupt your fitness routine for long. If you have immediate swelling or are unsure about the nature of your injury you should seek medical attention.
Self-treatment advice
• Take a break from exercise for 72 hours to protect your injury. Complete rest is unnecessary but avoid any activity that causes pain.
• Apply an ice pack to the injury as soon as possible. Frozen vegetables make a good substitute. Make sure you protect your skin by wrapping the ice pack in a damp towel or cloth. Apply for about 20-30 minutes, 10 minutes if applying to a bony area like an ankle. Repeat every two hours.
• Try to keep the injured limb raised above the level of your heart, when possible. This should help reduce swelling.
• Applying compression can also reduce swelling. Use a stretchy bandage, don’t wrap it too tightly and remove the bandage at night.
Warm Up To Exercise
You may want to take an anti-inflammatory drug to help with pain and swelling, ask your pharmacist for advice about what to take. If the pain continues for more than three days or if you do not notice any significant improvement to the injury after 72 hours, seek advice from your doctor.

Stretches for your warm-up and cool down routines

Stretching should not be painful, don’t force the stretch or bounce to increase the stretch. Do not hold your breath when stretching. If any of the exercises causes pain, stop immediately and seek medical advice. Due to individual differences, not everyone should expect to attain the positions detailed below. Ease gently towards the position, without pain. Repeat each stretch four times.

    i) Calf stretch
    Stand with one foot forwards, knee bent. Your back knee should be straight
    and facing forwards. Lean forward over your bent knee without bending at the
    waist, keeping the back knee straight and your heel on the floor. You should
    feel a gentle pull in the calf of the back leg. Hold for a count of 15. Repeat to
    the other side.

    ii) Hamstring stretch
    Lie on your back with one knee bent. With both hands support the back of
    your thigh. Straighten your knee until you feel a gentle stretch at the back of
    your thigh. As you straighten your leg, make sure your back is flat on the
    floor and your chin is tucked into your neck. Hold for a count of 15. Repeat
    to the other side.

    iii) Quadriceps and knee stretch
    Stand and hold one foot behind you bringing it up towards your bottom until
    you feel a gentle stretch. Support your ankle with your hand or a towel as
    you hold the stretch. Make sure the knee of the other leg is slightly bent. Do
    not lean forward or allow your back to arch. Hold for a count of 15. Repeat to
    the other side.

    iv) Chest stretch
    Stretch your arms behind you,  turning your palms to face out and keeping
    your elbows straight. Hold for a count of 15.

    v) Hip stretch
    Sit with one leg stretched out in front of you. Cross the other leg over it.
    Using one arm for support turn the upper body towards the bent knee. Place
    the opposite hand on the outside of the bent knee and continue gently
    moving towards your bent knee until you feel the stretch. Hold for   account
    of 15. Repeat to the other side.

    vi) Arm stretch
    Raise your arm, bending your elbow behind your head with your hand behind
    your neck. With your other hand gently pull your elbow towards the opposite
    side. Keep your elbow bent and behind your head. Don’t push your head
    forward. Hold for a count of 10. Repeat to the other side.

 

* Always consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional before embarking on any exercise programme.