Warm Up: To Stretch or Do Cardio First?
As a personal trainer clients would ask me “should i stretch first or or should i do cardio (warm up exercises) first” to warm up. This is a very good question since either one can cause injury on cold, tight/stiff muscles and joints especially on previously injured muscles and joints. The solution is simple. I recommend passive heat. But first lets look at something called Thixotropy and then see some options and benefits of warm-ups to see why we should should do.
Thixotropy: thixo + tropy
Thixotropy is the least know yet perhaps the most important benfit to warming up thixo- prefix meaning “touch” (from Greek thixis act of touching, from thinganein to touch) tropy condition of exhibiting (such) a behavior <allotropy> 2. : change in a (specified) way or in response to a (specified) stimulus <thixotropy>
Thixotropy is a time-dependent shear thinning property. Meaning that certain gels or fluids that are thick (viscous) under static conditions will flow (become thin, less viscous) over time when shaken, agitated, or otherwise stressed. Heat has the same effect and so does certain massage techniques. Stressing soft tissue causes various viscoelastic phenomena.
Thixotropy is a phenomenon known and common to all liquid and gel fluids in the body. Lymph, Blood, Synovial Fluids and Connective Tissues. When this natural occurrence is lost due to stress, overuse, under use, nutritive deficiency, or other, the body becomes stiff and less likely to heal. Without blood flow, which delivers oxygen and necessary nutrients to the muscle cells, the body cannot retain its agility, flexibility, nor can it heal normally. When this process is compromised your tissues become stiff.
The safest & fastest solution for warming up prior a workout is moist heat.
I recommend steam rooms prior to a workout. Steam rooms operate at temperatures typically around 110 degrees. They can relieve stiffness and pain. it also improves circulation by opening blood vessels.
For your first several visits limit your time in the steam room to 15 minutes. Re-hydrate with several glasses of water after a treatment to avoid dangerous dehydration.
If you have any sort of compromised breathing condition, like asthma, steam rooms can irritate your condition. Heart and blood conditions, such as hypertension, low blood pressure and heart disease, are generally not compatible with high levels of either dry or moist heat. Women who are pregnant, epileptics and people under the influence of any mood-altering drug or medication should also avoid saunas and steam rooms.
- If you have access to any of the following to provide Moist Heat: Steam room aka Russian bath, Jacuzzi, whirl pool. Dry Heat such as Turkish bath although good has a much less and slower affect and so I would not recommend over moist heat. Most fitness gyms should have at least one of there in the facilities.
- With in 5 minutes your muscles should be saturated with heat and blood causing them to be lose and flexible.
if doing a work out at home a hot bath (not too hot that you will get burned) will do the trick.
- When your Body is warmed up and ready to be stretched. You can do some stretches in the heated rooms. However, make sure you are careful not to slip and fall. It is safer to do them seated or laying down. It is also fine to do the stretches afterwards outside of the heated rooms (Do not do the stretches in slippery environments or in the tub).
- Make sure to dry your body thoroughly when you leave the heated room so that your body does not get cold when go out either to stretch or working out after the stretch.
- To increase flexibility and range of motion, perform stretching exercises when the body is warm.
- Ease slowly in and out of every stretch. Do not bounce! Breathe out as you stretch and continue to breathe as you hold it.
- Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds. Initial tightness should gradually diminish as you hold the stretch.
- Perform stretching exercises at least 3 times a week and ideally 5 times per week.
- If you feel any pain, release the stretch immediately.