While at the gym, I got to thinking about how many of us do not complete a proper and safe workout routine consisting of a warm-up and cool-down. I even find myself guilty of skipping one or two components of a full workout session. However, I have been trying to be a little better with being conscious about completing each part to help prevent injury, and get the best benefits of my workouts.
I like to think of a well-balanced workout routine as a live show, or a story-line. You always have some kind of introduction (the warm-up) which gives a sneak peak of what is to come, then there is the main attraction (the workout) which requires a bulk of energy to keep the audience intrigued, and then there is the conclusion (the cool down) when we slowly come down from the climax and tie it all together. Without all three, it wouldn’t make very much sense, which is why I am going to emphasize the importance of each part for your workouts.
- The warm up is one of the most important, especially if you are like me and work-out early in the morning. Our bodies do not reach its optimal body heat until mid-afternoon, which studies have shown is the optimal time to complete a workout.( Yeah it may be an optimal time for our bodies, but definitely not for my motivation! Haha). We are at our coldest body temp upon waking up in the morning, and It can be very dangerous to workout, especially strength train, when our bodies are not warm enough. It can cause us to cramp, pull a muscle, and even strain a muscle. This can result in much longer recovery time. They key to warming up is to utilize full range of motion movements of the muscle groups you plan to utilize in your workout.
- The actual workout is the main attraction – this is what we prepared our bodies for. When strength training we want to make sure that we are lifting with proper form (thank you mirrors!!), proper weight, and at the proper speed. Weight and speed will vary depending on your workout and overall goals; however, my rule of thumb is to use a weight that causes fatigue within your last 2 or 3 repetitions, and a speed that is not too fast, nor overly slow. Sometimes I will count a set of three while lifting, to create a strong contraction – but like I said, the speed at which you go will vary depending on your overall fitness goals. For example, with power workouts, we want to complete exercises with speed, so quick contracted will be utilized.
For more cardio-based workouts, play with your heart rate a little. For the more novice, bring your heart rate up to a steady fast pace to where you are still able to carry a brief conversation. And if you are a little more experienced, try to incorporate interval training into your cardio. Vary the intensity: work at a moderate to fast pace, with a few bursts of full-out push-as-hard -as-you-can for about 30 seconds – 2 minutes, and recover back to your moderate intensity. This will help improve your overall cardiovascular health, and help to improve the thresh-hold at which you feel you cannot go any further (this is called “lactic thresh-hold”). This can also be done at lower intensities: walk at a slow pace, and incorporate a few minutes of “power walking” — eventually you can work your way to power-walking with a few bursts of running.
- The cool-down is of equal importance. This brings our body back to a steady state, slowly cooling down our body temperature, and helps to decrease our risk for injury. With cardio, we want to decrease the intensity and go at a light resistance and moderate to light pace. If we stop too abruptly, we increase the risk of becoming light headed and dizzy. When strength training, it is definitely a good idea to keep this “cool-down” idea all day long. For example, after you have begin to bring your intensity down a few notches, STRETCH! And stretch throughout the day, especially before you head off to bed at night. This is will help with muscle recovery, and help to prevent from being overly sore the next day – this pain is called delayed onset muscle soreness.
This morning’s workout consisted of:
warm-up: alternating between 30 jumping jax, 26 walking lunges and 15 body squats, 3 sets
Side lunges: 15lb dumbbells, 10 reps each side, 3 sets
Forward step-ups on Jump Box: 15lb dumbbells, 10 reps on each leg, 1 set
20lb dumbbells, 10 reps on each leg, 2 sets
Straight Legged deadlifts: 60lb barbell, 12 reps, 3 sets
Hip Abduction: 65lb, 10 reps, 3 sets
One Legged Leg Extension: 20lb, 10 reps, 2 sets for each leg
Double Legged Leg Extension: 40lb, 12 reps, 1 set
Bent Legged Deadlifts w/ Kettle Bells: 20lb kettle bells, 10 reps, 3 sets
Cool Down: stretching & foam rolling!
Webmd.com did a great job with compiling a list of muscle groups and a few great stretches to incorporate when you’re working those body parts. Also, if you can get your hands on a foam roller after your workout, here are a few great techniques to stretching with it.
One more CRUICIAL key component to ANY form of physical activity: WATER! keep yourself hydrated. Water allows us to get the most out of our workouts, and prevents from mid-workout fainting (that would probably be embarrassing). And unless you are in “hell week” or “preseason training” consisting of high intensity and prolonged workouts (over an hour), then go ahead and ditch that Gatorade and Vitamin Water — far too much unnecessary sugar. Instead, either use plain old H2O, or water with electrolytes (i.e. smart water)
With that all said, what is up for this week?
For me, I am planning for this week to include: work (that’s a given), yoga, an attempt at a “dance with me class,” baking some sweet guilt-free treats (if time permits), anddddd STARTING MY MASTER’S DEGREE!!!! I am so excited, yet incredibly nervous, I have never taken online classes before, nor have I taken college courses since May — let’s hope I can get back into the groove of things!