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The most important 10 minutes of your workout

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If you’re starting or restarting an exercise routine chances are that your goals include burning fat and avoiding injury. You also want to enjoy the exercise as much as possible.

For all those reasons and more, the warm up and the cool down are the absolute most important components of your workout. They also are often the most often skipped parts of a workout. Start this New Year off well by getting a head start on fat burning with a good warm up and reduce your soreness with a good cool down!

The optimal warm up has two parts: an overall core workout and a functional warm up. During the first part of the warm up your goal is to increase core temperature, increase respiration, and increase circulation to deliver more oxygen to working muscles.

During the second, functional warm up, you pay attention to specific muscles or joints due to prior or existing injuries, or based on the exercise you’re about to do. Before a swim, for instance, you would want to move the shoulders through range of motion.

The proper warm up will:

  • Enhance range of motion
  • Lubricate joints
  • Make exercise more comfortable
  • Reduce risk of injury
  • Enhance energy expenditure during exercise

An example of a warm up before a jog on a treadmill:

  1. Start with a comfortable walking pace.
  2. Increase your speed each minute for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Increase to a light jog, and finally your full pace.
  4. Take a few minutes to move through some leg swings or light lunges forward, back and sideways to warm up the hips before resuming your jog.

A proper cool down also referred to as a warm down, often also has two parts. With weight training, for example you’ll want both a flexibility-enhancing cool down and you’ll want to increase your circulation before you finish. For cardiovascular exercise, sometimes the cardio session will occur before the stretching that will end the session.

The proper cool down will:

  • Reduce post exercise soreness
  • Speed up the recovery process
  • Enhance your ability to do more high quality workouts

An example of a cool down after a strength training session:

  1. Stretch all the major muscle groups you’ve worked
  2. Do 3-5 minutes of light cardiovascular movement (walking, bicycling, etc)

An example of a cool down after a run:

  1. Finish the last 5-10 minutes with a much slower jog or a walk
  2. Stretch all major muscle groups with particular attention to the leg muscles
  3. Optionally, add a few more minutes of walking to enhance recovery

You may not think warm-ups and cool-downs are important every time, but you’ll notice the difference if don’t do them, and you risk an injury that could get your regular routine out of sync. Better safe — and active — than sorry.

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