Move It

Effective warm-up and cool-down activities are important, so don't wait, get moving now! Add effective preparation and recovery activities to your game today.

Published April 02, 2013 05:40

Move It
Samantha Stosur

What you do before and after your competition, train and practice is critically important to keep you motivated, healthy and to perform at your peak. If you are not doing effective warm-up and cool-down activities you will may suffer with preventable injuries. So, don't wait, get moving now! Add effective preparation and recovery activities to your game today.

Dynamic Warm-Ups

Most athletes settle into a warm-up "routine". Perhaps you bike for 10 minutes followed by elastic band exercises and stretches in the gym. Or jogging a few laps around the court and then propping your leg up on the net to stretch. Some players only do a mental warm-up, like those described above.

Every person is unique with individual mental and physical needs, which means that there is not just one "right" way to warm up. However, everyone is a human being with a heart, lungs, bones, muscles, and joints. Physically, all bodies respond to certain activities in the same way.

• The key purpose and benefit of a warm-up is increased tissue temperature to safely prepare for exercise.
• To achieve this, some type of ACTIVITY is required to generate heat within the exercising muscles.
• Science and research have determined that some types of warm-up, like using only static stretching or only massage, are less than ideal at preparing the body to perform at your best. Static stretching (holding a stretch in one position for 15-30 seconds) actually relaxes the muscle and reduces its ability to produce power.
• A warm-up should be dynamic and invigorating to get the best physical and mental preparation.

Calming Cool-Downs

Many athletes neglect to do an appropriate cool-down. The price they will pay is often unnecessary injury, soreness, physical and/or mental fatigue. As with the warm-up, each person has unique needs, but each human body has the same general requirements.

• The main purpose of the cool-down is to safely lower the core body temperature.
• Although static stretching is not appropriate for a warm up, it is ideal for a cool down. Static stretching of all the main muscle groups, helps these muscles relax, improves body posture, improves mental clarity, and reduces pain and/or muscle soreness.
• A cool-down should actively relax your body and return the physical and mental energy you spent, to get you ready to bounce back strong and fresh the next day.

One — Start Me Up!

Improve your game and health today. Follow these guidelines for an effective, dynamic warm-up.

Generate heat: use cardiovascular (heart and lung) activity for five minutes. Cardiovascular activities include: bike, jump rope, elliptical cross trainer. Cardio activities increase:
• Heart and breathing rates and prepares the body for vigorous activity.
• Blood flow to exercising muscles which causes muscle temperature and flexibility to increase.
• Muscle-twitch/neurological (nerve) function to improve response time (wakes up your reflexes).
• Endorphins (a natural chemical released when you exercise) to improve energy and motivation.

Prepare your muscles: Use a dynamic and active stretching routine (10 minutes), that is:
• Multi-directional to prepare for the frequent changes of direction.
• Functional so that it mimics the coordination and movement patterns of your sport.
• Controlled for speed, direction, and smoothness of movement to avoid injury (not bouncing or jerking).
• Done with correct body alignment to ensure good stretch positions and movements to avoid injury.
• Effective: 20-30 seconds duration for each active stretch for lasting effect.

Be sport specific: official warm-up (five minutes hitting balls with your opponent is an example for tennis)
• Includes the movements used when you play to activate correct muscles for good stroke and footwork activities. Gradually increase the intensity to avoid injury.

* If you have an injury or a specific body area that does not respond to your dynamic warm-up routine, you may need extra help to safely prepare. See the Physical Therapist and/or a Certified Athletic Trainer who will assess the problem and assist your warm-up.

Two — Cool It!

Bounce back faster for your next match. Add calming, creative cool-downs to your regular routine.
Cool off: use cardiovascular activity (10 minutes) that gradually decreases in intensity.
• Slowly decreases heart and breathing rate back to your normal level.
• Creates a gentle pump action to reduce lactic acid (produced by exercise) in your muscles.
• Provides time to mentally review the match or practice and to slow down mentally and physically.

Relax your muscles: static stretching routine for 5-10 minutes. Allows the muscles to elongate and increases joint range of motion. Make sure that you:
• Keep good body alignment to stretch correctly to prevent injury.
• Stop at barrier: stretch to the first point of resistance, hold 20-30 seconds; then relax and gently release the stretch. Return to start position, rest 5 seconds. Repeat a couple of times.
• Hold it: ballistic (bouncing) stretching increases your risk of injury without added benefits. It is not recommended.

Scrub down: take a quick shower (five minutes). You will be clean and fresh and it assists in muscle recovery.
• Use warm or cool water temperature to restore normal core body temperature gradually.
• Use hydrotherapies to enhance recovery. Examples include: alternate warm and cool shower 4-5 times (1 minute each) to help stimulate muscle recovery or a 5-10 minute immersion in a cold plunge pool will reduce joint aches and lower body temperature.
• Warm water relaxes muscles. An Epsom salts bath is great to reduce soreness and stiffness the next day.
Refuel and Rehydrate: Eat and drink within 30 minutes of the end of your training session or competition.
• Light to moderate meal portion size is enough to restore your immediate fuel losses.
• Chocolate milk is an ideal recovery drink as it contains carbohydrate, protein and fluid in an ideal 3:1 ratio that will restore energy and help muscle recovery.
• Hydrate with sports drink to restore fluid and electrolyte balance.
Recover: Massage within 2 hours after the match or practice helps reduce muscle soreness.
• Increases blood flow to muscles to flush out lactic acid and toxins that build up from exercise.
• Increases elasticity of the soft tissues to reduce post-activity stiffness.

* If you have an injury or have a body part that does not recover well, see a Physical Therapist and/or Certified Athletic Trainer for assistance.


The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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