You probably think you need to warm up before your workout for better performance and injury prevention, and you need to cool down to let your body unwind.
In both cases, you’re right!
Unfortunately, you might also think that warming up and cooling down is dull and unnecessary, and you’d rather do something else or skip it entirely.
But what should you do if you really hate warming up and cooling down before or after your workouts?
A lot of gym-goers hate warming up and cooling down because it’s time-consuming, boring, and it doesn’t pose a challenge.
If you’re one of those people, you can make your warm-ups and cooldowns more fun by doing them while you listen to your favorite songs. You can also make them more efficient and dynamic by using movements that emulate the ones you’ll do in your routine.
Several fitness experts have come across clients in your situation and have shared their advice for making your warm-ups and cool downs more enjoyable.
Why Do People Hate Warming Up and Cooling Down?
Complaints about warming up and cooling down are rampant among fitness beginners.
But fitness experts have run into experienced clients who dislike doing both activities, too.
Below are some of the most common complaints fitness experts hear when it comes to warming up and cooling down.
1. It Feels Irrelevant
“Warming up and cooling down can seem like irrelevant parts of a workout routine,” says Hannah Daugherty, a certified personal trainer and writer with nextluxury.com.
Warming up and cooling down — like light jogging or stretching — don’t seem like productive or challenging activities, and they don’t always feel like part of your workout.
They simply feel like chores that you tack onto the start and end of your workout session because you feel like you have to.
2. It’s Boring
It’s a common complaint that warming up and cooling down are boring.
Warm-ups usually consist of light exercises and stretches, and stretching isn’t always a very dynamic activity. Many people find that they hate stretching in general, too.
When you work out you want to feel energized, but warming up and cooling down don’t provide that energy-driven high you’re seeking.
3. It’s Time-Consuming
The modern world is busy, and there’s never time to stop and take a breath.
Naturally, you’re going to shy away from something that’s time-consuming and doesn’t feel beneficial.
Warm-ups and cooldowns are often low-energy and relaxing parts of a workout session, so you’re left alone with your thoughts as your body is unchallenged.
You might start thinking about everything you have to do later in the day or the next day, which can make you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
You’ll be tempted to skip the warm-up and cool down so you can avoid those feelings.
4. It’s Forgettable
“Sometimes, people simply forget about doing [warm-ups and cooldowns] because their bodies do not experience much difference,” says Phung Tran, ACSM-certified exercise physiologist with beactiveiseasy.com.
You usually know exactly how you’re going to work out, but your warm-ups and cool downs aren’t always so meticulously planned.
You’re so focused on your actual workout when you go to the gym that you end up neglecting to warm up and cool down.
Tips to Enjoy Your Warm-Ups and Cooldowns
Your warm-ups and cooldowns don’t have to be boring and irrelevant. There are ways to make them more fun and easier to remember—you just have to get smart about it.
1. Make Them Relevant
Making your warm-up and cooldown relevant to your workout is one way to make them more tolerable.
Let’s take a running workout as an example.
Hannah Daugherty recommends, “Start with some butt kicks, some grapevines, some walking lunges, some high knees—and then continue with your running program.
“When you’re done, slow down for a jog or a light walk for a couple of minutes to let your heart rate decrease a bit.”
This is a tactic that Phung Tran uses, too.
Phung says, “We do not differentiate between warm-up, cooldown, or the main exercises. The warm-up consists of exercises similar to the main exercise, but only at a lower intensity and tempo.”
If you’re taking this approach, you don’t have to set aside extra time for a specific warm-up and cooldown.
Instead, you can get your body ready to move or give it a chance to relax while staying relevant to your workout.
There are various ways you can follow this approach. Use the rowing machine to row for a few hundred meters with the damper on a low setting.
Lift a few light weights before diving into heavier ones. Jog before you run.
Keep your warm-up and cooldown relevant and make sure they’re challenging without causing too much fatigue before or after your main workout.
2. Make Them Fun
If something is boring, then you need to make it fun.
Listen to high-energy music to get motivated to do a high-energy warmup.
Make a game out of it by seeing how long you can hold a specific stretch or how many practice reps you can do in a short time.
You can also work out with a friend so you have someone to talk to while you’re warming up and cooling down.
Making sure you’re entertained will make your warm-ups and cooldowns feel like less of a chore.
3. Make Them Efficient
If you don’t enjoy warming up because it’s too time-consuming, make it more efficient.
Instead of slowly building up the exercises until your heart rate increases, do 10 minutes of high-intensity cardio.
It’s good for your health, it gets your blood pumping, and it’s difficult to injure yourself if you have proper form.
It’ll also raise your heart rate, so you’ll be ready to tackle your workout sooner than if you did a slower warm-up.
You can also warm up by walking or cycling to the gym. That’s even more efficient—you don’t need to set aside any extra time for it, and your walk or bike ride home can act as your cooldown, too.
4. Socialize and Add Music
Instead of working out on your own, consider taking a fitness class. You’ll have people there with you to make warming up and cooling down more enjoyable.
“For the post-workout, we usually have simple static stretches as we chat,” Phung Tran says. “I find introducing the social aspect at the end helps the person to wind down.”
When you take a class, you get to chat with your workout buddies while you cool down instead of just standing around and doing some light stretches by yourself. You’ll be more focused on socializing than on the cooldown itself.
If you work out at home by yourself, listening to music you enjoy is a great substitute for cooling down with friends.
It’s even better if it’s relaxing music, which can help your body and mind settle down after a tough workout.
Top Alternatives to Traditional Warm-Ups and Cooldowns
If you’re still struggling to get through your warm-ups and cooldowns, consider switching up your activities and trying one of the methods below.
1. Foam Rolling
Foam rolling might feel like less of a warm-up or cool down because you’re not doing any exercises or stretching.
Instead, you’re using a foam roller to work the kinks out of your muscles, loosening them and relieving tension.
This is perfect for getting your body primed before a workout, but it can also offer a pleasant massage to your fatigued muscles once your workout is complete.
2. Using the Stationary Bike or Treadmill
The stationary bike can be intense or relaxing depending on how fast you pedal, so consider using it for your warm-up and cooldown.
Five minutes at the beginning and end of your workout is all you need.
At the start of your workout, riding a bike will raise your heart rate and prime your muscles for more intense movements.
At the end, slow pedaling can help get your heart rate back down to normal.
You can also do this with the treadmill.
Walk for a few minutes to get your blood flowing before you jump into your workout, or do it afterward to let your body relax.
Anything that gets you moving without causing too much strain counts as a warm-up and cooldown.
You can also row, use the elliptical, or do bodyweight movements such as air squats and pushups.
3. Yoga or Pilates
If you’re a fitness beginner or you’re thinking of changing up your workout routine, consider using yoga or Pilates as your preferred method of exercise.
Both yoga and Pilates are low-intensity, and they’re both great for preventing injuries and muscle strains. These activities don’t always require a dedicated warm-up and cooldown session.
When they do require warm-ups and cooldowns, you’ll usually be doing them in a class setting. You’ll have an instructor talking you through it all.
Sometimes the support of another person during a warm-up or cooldown is all you need to make it more enjoyable.
4. Jumping Rope
Jumping rope is a great, fast way to get your blood pumping.
It helps get your body primed, loose, and ready for your workout. It’s fun, quick, and easy, but it’s enough of a challenge to keep your mind occupied.
Consider doing a 10-minute jump rope session before diving into your main workout. It’ll get you warmed up quickly, and many people cite it as a fun way to get ready for their real workout.
The only problem with jumping rope is that it’s not a great way to cool down, so you’ll need to find another post-workout alternative.
Warming up and cooling down can be arduous, but you can make it more enjoyable by experimenting and seeing what works for you.
Sometimes a light bout of a different form of exercise can work instead of a traditional warm-up or cool down.
And sometimes all you need is a friend to chat with while you’re doing it!
You can’t (or shouldn’t) skip warming up and cooling down for most exercise routines, so it’s vital that you find a way to make it work for you.
Hopefully, the tips above have helped you find ways to make your warm-ups and cool downs more enjoyable.
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Hope this helps!