I recently answered a question from a friend regarding warm up and cool down. It made me think of those times when I am feeling a bit short on time in my own workouts. I used to think “Maybe I’ll just skip the warm up and cool down. I’ll still get the bulk of the workout in.” However, I now know as a coach how crucial the warm up and cool down are in order to prevent both Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and injury.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a common result of any prolonged or intense strain placed on the muscles. That means that more than likely, anyone who does any kind of long or hard workout without a warm up or cool down is probably going to be “feeling it” the next day.
The article Exercise 101: Don't skip the warm-up or cool-down from the Harvard Medical School states, “This (a cool down) helps prevent muscle cramps and dizziness while gradually slowing your breathing and heart rate. An effective cool-down also incorporates stretching exercises to relax and lengthen muscles throughout your body and improve your range of motion.” These are all beneficial outcomes for the athlete.
Warm up and cool down can be quite beneficial in the long term as well. Not allowing the body a chance to ‘warm itself up to exercise’ and starting training with ‘cold muscles’ can lead to muscle strain and eventual tearing, amongst other injuries.
An article by Woods, et al (2007), states that “The research included here conveys that certain techniques and protocols have shown a positive outcome on deterring injuries. As a result, a warm-up and stretching protocol should be implemented prior to physical activity.”
A basic warm up for a run can consist of easy running at a low RPE for 5 to 10 minutes. A cool down for the same run may consist of the same easy running or brisk walking at the low RPE for 5 to 10 minutes as well. This way an athlete can reduce the risk of injury and minimize DOMS.
Exercise 101: Don't skip the warm-up or cool-down. Harvard Health Publishing; Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercise-101-dont-skip-the-warm-up-or-cool-down
Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury. Sports Med. 2007;37(12):1089-99.