Make the most of your workout with these important before- and after-workout steps.

Whether you’re pressed for time or are mentally ready to dive into your workout, it’s important to make time to get your body ready to work, and ensure you feel great after exercise.

The importance of warming up and cooling down

Regardless of your age, fitness level or planned exercise, it’s beneficial to build time into your workouts to warm up and cool down.

Stacy Otto, a Personal Trainer at the Forest Lake Y says, before you exercise, you can ward off injury and maximize the benefits of working out by getting your blood flowing and preparing for the movements your body will be doing.

After your workout, it’s equally important to transition your body out of exercise mode. Stacy says that just a few minutes of cool-down movements can prevent injury, stiffness and soreness.

What to do before and after exercise

The type of warm-up routine you do should match the activities you plan to tackle in your workout. For example, if you’ll be:

  • Running, jog or walk briskly to get started
  • Swimming, do some lower-intensity laps first
  • Biking, hop on your bike for an easy, low-resistance cruise
  • Lifting, begin with some dynamic bodyweight exercises (think push-ups or squats), plus some light cardio (like jumping jacks)

During your warm-up exercises, Stacy encourages you to focus on your larger muscle groups—like back, chest, abs and upper legs.

After your main workout, it’s best to do some dynamic stretching—like yoga poses or using a foam roller to target your smaller muscle groups—like lower legs and arms.

“Your cool down is the time to work on any tight spots or areas of soreness,” Stacy says.

Guidelines on how much time is needed

She suggests using the target amount of time you’ll be exercises to determine how much time to spend on warming up and cooling down. If you plan to work out for:

  • 20 minutes, take 5 minutes to warm up and 3 minutes to cool down—putting your total workout time at just under a half hour
  • 30 minutes, stick with a 5-minute warm up and cool down for 5 minutes
  • 60 minutes (or more), put in 5-10 minutes of warm-up exercises and 5 minutes to cool down at the end

Get more pre- and post-workout tips

If you go to a Group Exercise class at the Y, warm-up and cool-down exercises are automatically built in. To really make the most of class, Stacy challenges you to hop on a bike or a treadmill for some light cardio before you head to the studio for class. Classes are a great opportunity for you to get a taste for the kinds of activities you can build into your solo workouts.

For more guidance on exercises to help your body warm up and cool down, sign up for a Fitness Solution—one-on-one meetings with a Personal Trainer that are included with Y membership.