The importance of warm ups and cool downs in training sessions

Whether it be swimming, cycling or running most training sessions follow the structure of a warm up, a main set and a cool down. 

So why do we do a warm up? The main purpose of the warm-up is to prepare our muscles for the main body of work for the session that is the main set. It allows blood to flow to the muscles in a slow progressive manner and protects the muscles from sudden explosive physical activity. This will help reduce the risk of injury. A thorough warm up also helps remove waste products such as lactic acid from previous training work outs. We often include some short hard efforts in the warm up so our muscles are ready to go when we start the main set.  Typically, a warm up would last between 10-15 minutes A swim warm up might look something like the following:

8 x 25m with every 4th fast on 10 seconds after each 25

6x 25m with every 3rd fast on 10 seconds after each 25

4 x 25 with every 2nd fast on 10 seconds after each 25

2 x 25 both fast

Either done as a swim or with a pull buoy, for a total of 500m or approximately 10-15 minutes. 

A cycling warm up could be 20 minutes long including some 1 minute build efforts or a run might be 15 minutes including some 100m short intervals. 

The cool down is equally important to bring the heart rate down after the main set. This prevents blood carrying waste products from resting stationary in the working muscles. It helps to flush out waste products which may prevent a smooth and quick recovery. A swim cool down might look something like the above warm up but in reverse. After a race a light swim or easy cycle is recommended.

2 x 25 both fast on 10 secs

4 x 25 with 1st and 3rd fast on 10 secs

6 x 25 with 1st and 4th fast on 10 secs

8 x 25 with 1st and 5th fast on 10 secs

Either swim or with a pull buoy. Typically, this would be 10-15 minutes and is 500m. 

To help muscles recover post race or an intense training session it is important to take on 20 grams of good quality protein within 20 minutes of completing your session. 

By David Hunt

Posted on 18th Jul 2023