As outlined above, proper warm-up can have a preventative purpose in keeping your body moving like the well oiled machine it is. Apart from injury prevention, activation and dynamic loading has been shown to increase performance, in two major measures strength and power. Spending 5-10 minutes prior to exercise or activity has been shown to significantly improve your performance; a small time commitment for a high return. It is important to also speak to dynamic versus station stretching as a warm-up. Static stretching, i.e., holding a position for x amount of time without moving or activation, has been shown to actually decrease performance. Pre-activity static stretching has been on it’s way out for some time now, so make sure if you only have a few minutes in your busy day, you focus on dynamic stretching and activation.
Post workout, or the cool down phase, is as important as the preworkout activity. Surprisingly, there is little research the support the use of an active cool-down post exercise. Originally thought to help relax muscle tone, it is now shown to dampen the accumulation of lactic acid (a byproduct of exercise). This sounds great right? Less post exercises soreness? Able to train more often? Sadly these are not the cases. The relation between lactic acid build up and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) has been debunked; yes lactic acid build up is related to DOMS, but it does not play as an important role as we once thought. An active cool-down (i.e., jogging post leg day, walking your last km of your run) has been shown to decrease biological marker build up, however this has less impact on performance than we once thought. Instead of an active cool-down, research has been pointing towards foam rolling or soft tissue release as great preventative and performance measures alike. Foam rolling may appear daunting at first, honestly it will not feel the best at first. To start, I recommend rolling against the wall in a standing position, this allows you to control the pressure much better than lying on a roller/ball. Once you can tolerate an okay amount of pressure, switch to rolling on the ground to add more pressure, ultimately further desensitizing the tissue. Other forms of soft tissue release can be found in forms of massage guns, therapeutic cupping, Graston, or even dry needling. Adjusting the way the tissue responds post activity is crucial to staying active and healthy.