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Warm Up or Cool Down?

Is it really necessary to warm up before exercise and cool down after?

Many people see the benefits of preparing their bodies for exercise, and the older you are the more likely you will be to realise this. But no matter how old, we should never underestimate the importance of the warm up or cool down. But are we doing it correctly? Should we run or stretch? Is a warm up the same as a cool down?

Much of the confusion comes from not understanding the difference between a warm up and a stretch. Many believe that stretching before exercise helps prevent injury, however clinical studies suggest otherwise – stretching cold muscles could actually cause serious injury!

Most experts recommend warming up before exercise – a brisk walk, light jog or running game, or sport-specific exercise, like performing your Shotokan karate katas with more relaxed stances till warm. This type of light movement increases the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, warming up the body temperature, increasing the breathing rate and preparing the body and mind for exercise.

It is recommended to then do some active stretches of those now warmed-up muscles before getting into the serious karate training, with strong deep stances and high kicks. Make sure you stretch the muscles you intend to use in your training session.

 

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Then, after training, cool down by slowing down the pace with some more gentle activity, or a walk. The cool down can be the same sort of exercise as the warm up, but with low intensity body movement. Static stretching after activity helps to ensure maximum flexibility, relax the muscles, returning them to their resting length, and helps the body clear the lactic acid built up during the workout. Less lactic acid means less soreness and stiffness the next day.

When stretching we must always stretch gently to the point of mild discomfort, not pain, and breathe slowly and easily throughout the stretch. Do not compete with another participant – your stretch is individual to your body.

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