Fiona Troup, clin­i­cal di­rec­tor at Six Physio, ex­plains the im­por­tance of warm­ing up and cool­ing down cor­rectly

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Make sure you warm up prop­erly with th­ese dy­namic moves.

With the cur­rent cold snap, tem­per­a­tures aren’t ris­ing as fast as the in­crease in our train­ing and this can cause prob­lems. Cold weather can make our tis­sues feel stiffer due to the re­duc­tion in sur­face blood flow in an at­tempt to main­tain body tem­per­a­ture. Ex­tra strain is also added if you’re not dressed ap­pro­pri­ately or your warm up and cool down pro­cesses are in­ad­e­quate.

Phys­ios of­ten see an in­crease in ten­sion re­lated neck and lower back pain due to peo­ple ha­bit­u­ally shrug­ging their shoul­ders to their ears and hug­ging them­selves when it’s cold.

The tis­sues around the neck and shoul­ders are al­ready un­der load from work and too much time spent on com­put­ers and hand held devices. It is re­ally im­por­tant to in­cor­po­rate pos­tu­ral mo­bil­ity and ac­ti­va­tion ex­er­cises into your daily rou­tine and as part of your warm up and cool down rou­tines.

How to warm up

Your warm up should fol­low the RAMP pro­to­col: Raise, Ac­ti­vate, Mo­bilise, Po­ten­ti­ate,

The warm up can be any­where from 10-30 min­utes and the goal is to in­crease mus­cle and core tem­per­a­ture, im­prove joint fluid sup­ple­ness and in­crease blood flow, while free­ing any ar­eas of con­nec­tive tis­sue stiff­ness. A hugely im­por­tant and of­ten for­got­ten com­po­nent is to ac­ti­vate op­ti­mal move­ment and neu­ral pat­terns.

First raise your heart rate with low in­ten­sity ac­tiv­i­ties such as walk­ing, jog­ging, gen­tle bike or a slow swim. Try a se­ries of dy­namic ex­er­cises, that train im­por­tant move­ment skills for 5-10 min­utes.

Then ac­ti­vate the es­sen­tial mus­cle groups and mo­bilise rel­e­vant joints through the range of mo­tion re­quired for the ses­sion ahead. This may in­clude re­hab or pre-ac­ti­va­tion style ex­er­cises such as over­head squats, walk­ing lunges and calf raises. Fo­cus on dy­namic move­ment pat­terns rather than in­di­vid­ual mus­cles. The “po­ten­ti­ate” phase fo­cuses on im­prov­ing ef­fec­tive­ness of the per­for­mance such as speed and agility drills for car­dio­vas­cu­lar-based ex­er­cise or for re­sis­tance train­ing with lighter ex­plo­sive sets.

How to cool down

The goal of the cool down is to re­turn to your rest­ing state and to aid re­cov­ery. It should help in re­dis­tribut­ing blood and meta­bolic waste prod­ucts from the mus­cles, and help you psy­cho­log­i­cally wind down. Five to 10 min­utes is usu­ally enough for a warm down. Bring your heart rate down grad­u­ally with a lower in­ten­sity move­ment se­ries (slow jog/ swim/cy­cle). The ev­i­dence around stretch­ing is a lit­tle con­tentious, but the main thing is to stretch and mo­bilise while you are warm. If you have been train­ing out­side and are cold, it is ad­vis­able to change into some warm clothes or even take a warm bath be­fore com­plet­ing stretch­ing. Form is crit­i­cal. En­sure you don’t over-stretch and hold po­si­tions for around 30-90 sec­onds. Us­ing a foam roller and spikey balls can help too.

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