Every exercise session should include:

a warm-up, a conditioning phase, and a cool down.

Benefits of a Warm-up

The warm-up helps your body slowly adjust from rest to exercise. The warm-up reduces the stress on your heart and muscles while slowly increasing your breathing, circulation (heart rate), and body temperature.  It also helps improve flexibility, reduces muscle soreness and prevents injury.

The best warm-up includes stretching, range of motion activities, and the beginning of the activity at a low-intensity level.  Stretching the arms and legs before and after exercising helps to prepare muscles for activity and helps to prevent injury and muscle strain.  Regular stretching can also increase your range of motion and flexibility.

Warm-up Techniques

Specific exercise for each muscle group are used for stretching.  The recommendation for these exercises is to move as directed (see tab X) to a point of feeling a stretch, and hold the stretch for 10 – 30 seconds.  This should be repeated 2-4 times for each exercise.  It is important not to spring into each muscle stretch, but to move slowly into each stretch and hold it.  Each repetition, the muscle will be able to stretch a bit further.  It is important to breath during the stretch. You may also, efficiently, stretch your muscles with, if they are warmed up, a light walk or cycling exercise.

The Cool Down Phase

The cool-down phase is the last phase of your exercise session.  It allows your body to gradually recover from the conditioning phase.  Your heart rate and blood pressure will return to near-resting values.  Cool-down does not mean to sit down.  In fact, do not sit, standstill, or lie down right after exercise.  This may cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or have heart palpitations (a fluttering in your chest).

The best cool-down is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity.  You may also do some of the same stretching activities you did during the warm-up phase.

Breathing Recovery

A great aid to help your body recover, post-training, is breathing recovery techniques.  The faster your body can go from an excited state to a calm one, the more capable you will be of recovering from your workouts.  Recovery breathing is basically taking a deep breath into your belly through your nose, and exhaling slowly through your mouth.  Try taking longer to exhale then to inhale.  An example of a good, deep breath might be a four-second inhale held for seven seconds and followed by an eight-second exhale.  Repeat this process three to four times, letting your body calm itself and adjust to the new breathing pattern.

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