With the temperature rising (we hope) and the days getting longer, this is traditionally a time when most of us start exercising more and in particular look to start playing sports such as golf and tennis. Also many of us, after the cold dark winter months, can look forward to running outdoors before or after work.
It is often a time when I see an increase in sports related injuries in the clinic as clients become more active. Most of the injuries are sprains and strains. These are usually as a result of not being prepared for the activity performed and/or being properly warmed up.
Warming up prepares the body for subsequent activity. It is often used as an injury prevention strategy and a way of developing sports performance. For the more serious athlete, it can be an effective use of time to focus on fundamental skills and movement patterns that lay the foundations for sports-specific performance.
15 to 20 minutes is ideally the time we should put aside to warm up. This should start with a jog of approx 5 minutes, fast enough to just break sweat. At this point, depending on the activity, a selection of stretches should be performed. Research has shown that dynamic stretching is more effective than static as part of a warm up. Dynamic stretching is including a stretch as part of a continuous movement of the muscles being stretched. For example exaggerated repeated lunges (moving forward from one leg to the other dynamically) stretch most muscles of the lower extremity. For the sport you are about to perform think of the movements you will make and choose a series of exercises to dynamically stretch those muscles. Once these stretches have been performed for approximately 10 minutes, it is a good idea to finish off with a few short sprints, between 6 and 10 over no more than 50 metres, increasing the pace on each one until the last is done at 90%.
Don’t misuse the warm up: it is not the right time to be developing flexibility. You can incorporate static stretches (traditional stretching), but keep them brief and to the point. Perform them after the dynamic stretch. Perform two repetitions per muscle group, holding for 15 seconds each.
The warm down is equally important as the warm up as it helps metabolise the lactic build up in the muscles, which is what causes the all too familiar stiffness post exercise (particularly if we have not exercised for a while), which is often at its worst 48hrs post activity. Unfortunately stretching at this point will do little to relieve the stiffness, but a good 25/30 minute jog will work wonders.
Warm up/stretch/compete/warm down and you’ll spend less time on the therapists’ bench!!!!
If you would like any further advice on warming up, dynamic or static stretching specific to your activity, we would be more than happy to help. Contact me at email@example.com