A common sense guide to warming up & Cooling Down
What’s your priority at the start of a race?
- Register - check.
- Kit Check - check.
- Number pinned on straight - check.
- Toilet - check.
Before you know it, you’re on the start line, waiting nervously for the off. What didn’t you do? Warm up!
We all mean to but in reality it’s only a handful of us that warm up right? The speedy ones that are out for the win or the ones that take themselves too seriously. You just use the first few minutes – or miles – to warm up. But when you hear the gun, the horn or the shout, you set off faster than you intended, caught up in the moment. Your legs feel stiff, your breathing is laboured and you have to slow right down to feel better again.
So how do you fix the warm up?
Warming up can serve several purposes:
- You get your body moving and mobile. After spending time driving to the race, you’re not ready to go from 0-60 so you could be raising your risk of injury.
- You can make sure everything feels comfortable and ‘right’- your kit, your shoes, your clothes – and make any adjustments.
It can mentally prepare you. Once you start moving and you know you’re about to race, any nerves should start to dissipate, and you can start to relax into it.
So what does a warm up look like? Here are some ideas to try and see what works for you.
- Lunges. Doing a variety – forward, reverse, lateral, walking – will mobilise your hips, knees, ankles and feet, and warm up your muscles. Use your arms too: mimicking a running action will engage your upper body.
- Easy jogging. I know we don’t use the ‘j’ word, but easing into it will get your heart and lungs into gear without being too taxing.
- Strides. Introducing four to five 20-30 second bursts of speed will prepare your body and mind for what is about to come. Elevating your heart rate and breathing without creating fatigue will remind your body what it feels like and let it know what it is in for!
Once you’re warmed up, keep moving until you start. Some jumping on the spot or gentle stretching will keep you warm and revved. Enjoy your race and don’t forget to cool down!
The Cool Down
The finish line is in sight. The crowds are cheering, willing you on to the end. You drive your arms, kick your legs and your heart rate rockets as you put all of your energy into that final push. You’ve done it! Collapsing over the line in a red-faced sweaty pile, the only thing on your mind is water and a sit down. The last thing is moving any further. But, moving might make a difference in how well you cope with the stairs tomorrow.
Cooling down after a race doesn’t just mean having a nice cold beverage. Your muscles need to cool down too. You’ve just slammed the brakes on after a sudden surge which is a big shock to the system.
Here are three things you can do to help your body recover from the stress you’ve just caused it:
- Have an easy jog or a brisk walk as soon as you stop. It help your body to loosen all of that tension, slow your heart rate gradually and breathe more comfortably.
- Do some gentle stretches. It hasn’t been proven that stretching post race has an impact on recovery but it can feel good to move the muscles through different planes and to find anything that might be tight or niggly.
- Stretch your legs out in front of you or lay with them up a wall. Not only does this feel really good, it helps to loosen your hamstrings and gets the blood flowing back into your vitals.
Remember, cool it down gradually and you’ll feel better for it the next day!