What You Do Before Exercise Can Make a Difference
When you engage in any physical exercise, whether it’s a workout at the gym or a game of tennis, injuries are not uncommon. But you can manage the risk of injury by paying attention to what you do before you hit the field or the gym.
In any type of exercise, a number of changes will take place in your body:
- You’ll have more blood flowing to your muscles, providing oxygen and helping remove wast3e products
- Your heart rate and breathing will accelerate
- Your muscles will release more energy
It’s generally not good for your body to try to make major changes immediately. You’ll be less susceptible to injury if you gradually increase blood flow, heart rate and respiration. That’s the primary function of a warm-up.
In addition to promoting blood flow and the gradual release of energy, a proper warm-up will also warm your muscles, making them more elastic, reducing the likelihood of tears or strains.
Effective Warm-Up Strategies
As a general rule, you want to increase your body temperature before you engage in any stretching. Don’t start by doing toe touches or other hard stretches. Instead, begin by walking or jogging in place. After a couple of minutes, gently move your arms in propeller-like fashion. You can gradually increase the tempo and intensity of your arm movements.
Once your body is warm…after about five minutes…replicate some of the motions you will engage in with your exercise, but at half speed. If you plan to run a couple miles, lightly jog around for a minute or two. If you intend to play tennis, take some easy “shadow” forehands and backhands (without a ball), and maybe a serve or two, just to loosen everything up and warm all your muscles.
If you still feel a little tight, now is the time to engage in a little more intense stretching. Even now, though, work your way into a full stretch—don’t go for your toes on the first stretch.
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