Warming Up and Cooling Down
Always begin your exercise routine with a thorough warm-up period. Warm-up exercises heighten your ﬂexibility and prevent muscle soreness. The purpose of warm-up exercises is to take each joint in your body through its full range of motion. Stretching exercises combined with low-intensity walking, jogging, or bicycling for about 5 minutes also prepare your body for more vigorous activ- ity. After you ﬁnish your workout, repeat the same exercises to cool your muscles and joints down. Here are some effective warm-up and cool-down stretches you can try. Do each exercise slowly, spending 1 or 2 minutes on each stretch. If any warm-up exercise gives you pain, stop doing it. Begin by stretching your arms and spine.
Spine and Arm Stretch Stand with your feet facing forward and your knees slightly bent. Try to keep your body straight as you reach your arms over your head with your hands together, palms facing forward. Hold the stretch for 10 to
20 seconds. Slowly bring your arms down, reaching out with your hands as you go down, and bend down at the waist. Keep your knees slightly bent. Try to touch the ground, but don’t stretch too far if it hurts, and avoid bouncing. Slowly rise and let your arms fall to your sides. Repeat three times.
Calf Stretch Stand erect in front of a wall or a doorframe. While moving forward, bend one leg and move the other back, with both of your heels on the ﬂoor, keeping the back leg straight. Move forward as far as is comfortable until you feel a pull in the back of your outstretched leg. Relax and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
Thigh Stretch Balance on your left leg. If you can’t balance easily, hold on to a chair. Bend your right leg back and hold your right foot with your right hand, pressing in as far as is comfort- able. Raise your left arm. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
Arm Circles Hold both of your arms out straight. Draw a one-foot circle in the air with both arms at once. Repeat ﬁve times in each direction.
Side Stretch Stand with your feet about a foot apart. Raise one arm, with the ﬁngers pointing inward. Bend in the direction of your raised ﬁngers. (If you can’t bend at all, just hold the arm-up position for a few seconds.) You should be able to feel a stretching in your side. Repeat with your other arm raised. Stretch each side three times.
Neck Stretch Clasp your hands behind your head and slowly turn, looking over your left shoulder. Bring your head down and to the front and look to the ﬂoor as you slowly turn to the opposite shoulder. Repeat the exercise three times.
Pelvic Stretch This exercise will stretch your thigh muscles. Sit on the ﬂoor with your legs apart as far as they will comfortably go. Bend over and reach forward with your arms on the ﬂoor as far as you can go. Hold for 30 seconds.
Inner-Thigh Stretch To stretch your inner-thigh mus- cles, sit on the ﬂoor, bring your feet together, and pull them toward your body. Push your knees down with your elbows. Keep your head up and your back straight. Stretch only as far as you can while remaining comfort- able. Hold for 30 seconds.
After your exercise period, don’t just stop cold and rest. As you exercise, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, causing soreness, fatigue, and possibly cramping. To reduce the amount of lactic acid in your muscles, you need to cool down by continuing to exercise at a lower intensity for 5 to 10 minutes and then do some stretching exercises. Cooling down will make you feel better as well as reduce muscle soreness.
Knowing When to Stop Exercising
Exercise- and sports-related injuries usually arise from overuse of a muscle, ten- don, ligament, or joint (see page 63). If you have a condition, such as arthritis, that can be aggravated by exercise, talk to your doctor before you begin any exer- cise program. If you experience any pain, or if you injure yourself, stop exercis- ing immediately. Never ignore an injury or attempt to “work through” the pain; you may make your injury worse. Instead, stop exercising for a few days and fol- low the RICE routine (see page 65). If you think the injury may be serious, or if you still experience pain after a few days of the RICE routine, talk to your doc- tor. You should also stop exercising immediately if you have any symptoms of a heart attack (see page 66).
Some athletes exercise too much, especially if they are training for an upcom- ing event such as a marathon. Overtraining is self-defeating. It causes physical exhaustion and adversely affects your athletic performance. If you think you may be overtraining, you need to recognize when to stop exercising and rest, before you reach exhaustion. You should always exercise at your own pace, keep- ing in mind your own ﬁtness level. Don’t try to work out for an hour or more
every day just because a friend does. Your body will quickly tell you when it’s had enough. Signs of overtraining include:
• loss of coordination
• a prolonged period of recovery after exercise
• elevated morning heart rate
• appetite loss
• muscle soreness
• digestive system problems
• lowered ability to ﬁght infection
• irritability and depression
• poor concentration
If you have any of these symptoms, stop exercising for a day or more to give your body time to rest. Decrease your activity level in both duration and fre- quency. If exercise becomes a compulsive act for you, talk to your doctor. Exer- cising beyond the point of exhaustion, when injured, or to the exclusion of other activities and life interests can be signs of exercise addiction. Excessive exercis- ing produces results that are completely the opposite of those you intend to achieve. Moderation is the key to success when it comes to exercise and ﬁtness.