Remember how dads would turn the car engine on a few minutes before it was actually time to leave the house? Just as a vehicle’s temperature helped in getting the oil circulating, a similar principle applies to the human body, with warming up being essential before getting it on for the main event. Not only can warming up enhance an athlete’s performance, but it can play a big role in preventing injury. There are different ways one can begin warming up. Ultimately, what matters is that the heart is prepared to increase blood flow in the body, which will lead to an increase in muscle temperature. This allows more oxygen for the muscles, eventually leading to better performance. Scientific studies have also proven that warmed up muscles are more difficult to suffer tearing compared to those that are not.
Depending on the sport and the intensity of the physical activities that an athlete intends to do, a good 10 to 20 minutes of warm up should do. For aspiring triathletes, it is best to take it slow and steady, gradually increasing the intensity as they progress with the sport.
Beginning the warm-up with a physical activity like low-intensity run drills and stretches could already be good for the body. For triathletes, it is highly suggested to do 10-second sprints. Along the way, you can also try building your own warm-up routine that matches your approach to training or finishing a race.
Think of it this way: higher race intensity requires a longer and more thorough warm-up is needed. In triathlon, the body is exposed to three different disciplines that occur in land and water. A sudden change in ‘environment’ may increase the risk for injury involving muscles, or even the heart.
But take note: warming up is not necessarily all about physically preparing your body for strenuous activities. It should also involve mental preparation – engaging the mind with what you want to do with the body.
After the race, cooling down is just as important as warming up. According to studies, a good cool down also helps athletes to avoid injuries. Cooling down is a “continued activity” done at an easy pace. The whole point of doing this is to properly transition the heart “from a highly active state to a resting state.” Here’s a tip: keep the movements on low-intensity until you bring the heart and breathing to a normal pace.
Now, here’s the truth about stretching: it’s best to do it after the muscles have been into high-intensity activities. All muscles used in cycling, running and swimming should be stretched after the race. Hold the muscle stretch for 30 seconds, and you can finish the cool down in no more than 15 minutes.
Warming up and cooling down are sometimes overlooked, but both are integral parts of successfully completing a race, enjoying the sport you love, and growing as an athlete.