Everything you need to know about Warming up, Cooling down and Rest days

with Lindsey Corrado-Sampson, Bodytree Pilates, BTB and Xtend Barre Instructor and creator of Spin Tribe

A new year inspires many people to make new health and fitness resolutions. Whether a newbie to fitness or are a regular gym goer there are a couple important elements of exercising that often get neglected and can lead a person to “burn out” or injury, ultimately getting in the way of those goals. In this article we will go over some of the key components that should always be incorporated into your workout routine.

Warming Up

When pressed for time, warm-ups are the first thing to be omitted from a work out. However warm-ups are extremely important as they prepare the body and the mind for the more energetic demands that are to come later in the workout. The warm-up should gently prepare the body for exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation. This will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles which will in turn prepare them for physical activity and prevents injuries.

Warm-up Suggestions:

  • Taking 3-5 minutes to warm-up will improve your performance during your workout.
  • The type of warm up needs to be appropriate for the activity planned.
  • Typically warm up the muscle groups you plan to use in that particular workout.
  • For more high intensity workouts do movements and stretches that will start to increase the body’s temperature and reduce muscle stiffness.
  • For more low intensity workouts (yoga/pilates) I like to start with breathing and spinal mobility to help ground the clients and allow them to focus and reflect on the workout ahead.

Cooling Down

So many times I have seen people pick up their things and just walk out of a group class without completing the cool down. Like warm-ups, cool downs are just as important because they gradually decrease the intensity of the workout and return the body to a state of rest. After physical activity, your heart is still beating faster than normal, your body temperature is high and your blood vessels are dilated and can pool in the muscles. This means if you stop too quickly you could pass out, feel dizzy or sick. Therefore, the cool down provides an opportunity for the heart rate to gradually decrease while the body flushes out any harmful toxins from the muscles back into the circulatory system, reducing the build up of lactic acid that causes stiffness and muscle aches.

Cool Down Suggestions:

  • Again, take 3-5 minutes to cool down after your session to bring your heart rate back down (if doing high intensity exercise).
  • For high and low intensity workouts stretch the muscle groups you used in your workout. This will return them to their normal length, reduce the delayed onset of muscular soreness, aid recovery and assist your body in its repair process.
  • Like in the warm-up, include some deep breathing to help regulate your heart rate, oxygenate your system, and relax the body. This goes for both high intensity and low intensity sessions.

Rest

Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild, and strengthen in-between workouts. Especially for instructors and those that train on a daily basis, rest becomes a crucial part of my fitness routine to help maintain a healthy body.Without getting too scientific, in the first 48 hours after exercising the collagen in your body, which is what muscles consist of, starts to degrade. New collagen is being produced at the same time but the rate of degradation is higher than that of collagen production. Which means if you do not give the muscle fibers time to repair and be restored then there is a greater risk of injury, and the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. And if you are not giving your muscles enough downtime, you could potentially slow down your progress. So when you jump right back into performance mode too soon, it interrupts the body’s natural rebuilding process and can prevent you from reaching your goals.

Still so many people overtrain or feel guilty if they take a day off. Maybe there is a fear that taking a day off will undo all the progress you’ve made. But let’s be realistic: those results were not made overnight, it took time, and so you will not lose that progress just by taking one day off. In general, it takes your body almost two weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable amount of the progress you made or see a decrease in performance level. So think of the bigger picture and that consistency is what is going to yield big time results.

Maybe there is also the idea that rest is a waste of time or unproductive. But if you rob your body of the recovery it needs by overdoing it with extra sessions, all of your efforts backfire. Building recovery time into any training program is vital because that is the time the muscles change, adapt to the stress of exercise and ultimately get stronger. And rest doesn’t necessarily mean you become a couch potato (although days like that can be nice). So if you are one of those people who needs something to keep busy try walking, yoga, or stretching/mobility work. Gentle movement as well as flexibility and mobility are also part of the fitness process and help make us stronger for when we are faced with more high intensity workouts.

Overtraining can also affect your sleep cycle. Too much exercise can put your body in a constant state of restlessness making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

Lindsey’s six favourite activities for resting and recuperating the body post exercise:

  1. Magnesium salt baths/oils: Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and as a salt compound helps to pull excess fluids out of the tissues, reducing swelling. It is similar to epsom salts however magnesium salts are better absorbed in the body. Generally I pour 2 cups of magnesium salt into a warm running bath and then let my body soak for 15-20 minutes, letting the salts do the rest! I also like to add lavender oil especially if I take a bath right before bed to help relax me and get me ready for sleep. You can take up to three magnesium salt baths per week. Don’t have time for a bath? Applying magnesium oil directly on your aching muscles is also a fantastic way to soothe sore, tired muscles because the oils soaks right into the body. Magnesium is also a great sleep aid if you have difficulty sleeping at night.
  2. Bone Broth: Bone broth has anti-inflammatory effects on the body and can reduce joint pain. It is also full of collagen which is important for the repairing of muscles after a workout. Not to mention it is great for gut health and boosts the immune system! I like to drink a cup in the evening post workout to help my body recover.
  3. Turmeric: Turmeric is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it excellent for sore muscles and achy joints. Nectar juice bar makes a delicious turmeric latte perfect for healing muscle pain!
  4. Foam Roller/Therapy Balls: A foam roller offers many similar benefits as a sports massage including reduced inflammation, scar tissue and joint stress, as well as improved circulation and improved flexibility. Regular rolling pre workout helps prepare your body for the workout ahead and regular rolling post workout helps the body recover faster. Other benefits of foam rolling include improved movement, better range of motion, increased blood flow and decreased recovery time. Rolling can also be great for increasing body awareness. Rolling can also be great increasing body awareness. If you are a person that struggles to activate certain muscles, rolling the muscle first before working it can “wake” it up and help you recruit it better during exercise. For more difficult to reach muscles or ones that are deeper in the body therapy balls can be a great tool. Great brands include the RAD roller series of Yoga Tuneup series, however a tennis ball will work just as well. Here are some tips for rolling: avoid rolling too fast otherwise your muscles do not have the chance to adapt and loosen. Avoid rolling over the same spot for too long. Sure, when we find that “sweet spot” or that knot we want to stay and roll it out but applying too much compression could actually damage the tissue and make you feel more sore the following day and could even leave a bruise. Lastly, make sure to breath! It’s easy to hold your breath during discomfort but breathing helps to oxygenate and increase blood flow to the muscles.
  5. Gentle Yoga (such as Yin): This is my favorite style of yoga because of its dedication to stretching. Especially after all the high intensity workouts I do throughout the week, my body becomes extremely stiff and my muscles tight, which makes Yin the perfect way for me to recover. The benefits of Yin Yoga include increased flexibility, improved joint mobility, increased circulation, fascial release, reduced stress and anxiety, and balancing the body. Each pose is held for 3-5 minutes and stimulates & removes blockages in the myofascial meridians in the body.
  6. Massage: Of course a massage is always a nice splurge that can ease sore muscles and rest the body. But now you know a few other alternatives that won’t break the bank!

One final tip to help you stay on top of your fitness game and make sure you are getting the most out of your workouts is to monitor them by writing down a training log and paying attention to how your body feels after and in between workouts. This will be super beneficial in determining when you will need rest and recovery. We only have one body so love and take care of it!

Lindsey is a fully certified advanced Stott Pilates instructor and works full time at Bodytree Studio. She teaches Pilates, Barre, BTB Bounce and has recently introduced Abu Dhabi to her own creation “Spin Tribe”. This is a a combination of TWO exercise methods: high intensity with strength training & core conditioning: 30 mins of cycling + 30 mins of Pilates Reformer. Email info@bodytreestudio.com if you are interested. Lindsey is also available for private sessions.

*Always remember, if pain is severe or immoblizing, please see your health care professional. This post is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to replace trained medical advice*

Image of Lindsey by Sarah Siblini photography


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