We've been told we need to warm up before we workout and cool down afterwards but why? Today I want to talk more about the why behind warming up and cooling down.

Stephanieruns Fitness

October 28, 2018 Newsletter

Do you warm up and cool down?

I think as runners and athletes we have all been told several times that we need to warm up before we workout and cool down after. I've talked about the importance of warming up and cooling down several times. My hope for today's newsletter is to explain why I believe warm ups before you exercise are critical and the importance of cooling down after your workout.

This week on twitter I shared a scientific study: The Effect of Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercise on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in the Quadriceps Muscle: a Randomized Controlled Trial Now this study doesn't study runners but there is still a lot we can learn from it. We have all heard that our warm up prepares our body for working out, lubricates your joints, and slowly brings up your heart rate. Have you heard it can help reduce muscle soreness following your workout? That was a huge takeaway for me from the above study. You may not think that your warm up can help you recover following your workout but it makes a lot of sense. Properly preparing your muscles for the intensity you'll be putting your body through during your workout is the first step to successfully recovering from your workout. The study indicated that aerobic warm up exercise is more effective at preventing muscle soreness in the 24 hours compared to an aerobic cool down. Which might be the opposite of what you think or what you've been told.

This doesn't mean that your cool down isn't important but I do think it creates a shift in thinking. Most runners believe their cool down and stretching prevents muscle soreness. The primary goal of your cool down is to slowly bring your heart rate down in order to prevent pooling blood especially in your legs. I also believe that your cool down plays an important role in your mind/body connection. When you've been running or working out you might have been replaying your day, or a recent event that occured. Taking the time to help let it go at the end of a workout helps you clear your head and be able to move on with your day. Laying in corpse pose (a yoga pose) and the end of your cool down can really help ground you and is a fantastic way to end your workout.

I plan on taking more time to read more research studies on warming up and cooling down. I encourage you to read the study above. I'd love to talk to you about it. I think there's a lot more we can learn about warming up and cooling down. I wouldn't be surprised if viewpoints change as we learn more via scientific research. Currently my main takeaways are:

1) Warming up can help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.

2) While both are important if time is an issue put more focus on your warm up than cool down.

3) Your cool down's main purpose is to help prevent pooling blood, keep moving!

4) Make sure you warm up before you workout!

5) Use your cool down to connect with your mind.

I hope you use this information and reflect on your training. You don't need to make huge changes right away but start making small sustainable changes to help improve your workouts and your recovery.

Ask Stephanieruns Fitness

I asked on twitter if you had any questions about warming up or cooling down and you delivered! HoustonLifeCoach @arleneschn asks 'What length of time for each? Does the cooldown include specific stretching or just slowing down or walking?'

When you're looking at the time you need for a warm up or cool down I believe on an individual approach. The more intense or longer your workout is going to be the longer I would spend on a warm up. How long your warm up needs to be also depends on how your body adapts. If you know your body takes longer to adapt you should do a longer warm up. In general you would probably be okay with taking 5 minutes to bring up your heart rate followed by a series of dynamic stretches but reflect on what works best for you.

Your cool down should start with slowing your pace gradually until you're at a walk. You should continue walking until your heart rate has slower not back to your resting heart rate but within your normal walking heart rate range. After I would encourage you to do stretches that target the muscle groups you've worked and foam roll. The amount of time your cool down should be depends on how quickly your heart rate comes down. I would encourage you to spend at least five minutes on stretching, especially if you don't do any other flexibility workouts. Stretches as part of your cool down can help improve your flexibility.

I know life is busy but give yourself the gift of having enough time to both warm up and cool down!

How Does Heart Rate Monitoring Help?

I'm a big believer in science and using data to improve. One of the simplest ways to get data on your running is to wear a heart rate monitor. Your heart rate doesn't lie. It tells you exactly how hard you're working. You can use your heart rate data to help improve your warm up and cool down. 

When you're warming up you can see your heart rate rise. You might see a sudden spike in your heart rate before it normalizes. You'll be able to see how long it takes you to normalize your heart rate. I wouldn't stop your warm up just because your heart rate normalizes but it can help guide how long your warm up needs to be. You'll want to add in your dynamic stretches after your heart rate has normalizes.

When you're looking at your heart rate and cooling down you'll be able to see how quickly your heart rate lowers. You don't want to see a complete sudden drop as your cool down should be gradual. You should never abruptly stop your workout. You might not know how long your cool down needs to be. Use your heart rate data to see how long you need to walk after your run. Don't start your stretching while you're heart rate is still elevated, allow your heart rate to lower first. I would encourage you to try corpse pose after your stretching/foam rolling as part of your cool down. You can use your heart rate to see how relaxed you're able to get.

Try tracking your heart rate data. There's a lot you can learn. Let me know how it goes.

If you have any topics you'd like me to cover in a future newsletter please let me know.

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If you're looking for help with your running and strength training I am available to coach you. Send me an e-mail at fitness@stephaneruns.com for more details.


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Stephanieruns Fitness

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Oakville Ontario,  L6M 2V5 - Canada

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Disclaimer: Always seek medical advice before starting an exercise program. This newsletter is not medical advice. Medical advice should be sought from a medical professional. Stephanieruns Fitness assumes no liability for any injuries or damages as a result of the above content.