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I don't have the extra time to warm up.

I never stretched or warmed up when I was younger.

I don't need to stretch. I'm very flexible.

GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! No matter what sport or activity or level of intensity, most of us fail to prepare sufficiently for the stress we are about to subject ourselves to.

Warming up is not an exact science. Some opinions may differ from those in this article, but most experts will agree that warming up with low level activity followed by mild stretching after exercise is the best way to enhance performance. The extra 8-10 minutes spent before and after workouts will increase muscle efficiency and reduce the risk of injury. It will also help relieve post-exercise soreness associated with the buildup of lactic acid and other muscle waste products.

Warm up should consist of three parts - dynamic, static, and specific phases.

The object of the dynamic phase is to prepare the body for exercise by increasing muscle and body temperature. The best way to do this is a brisk walk, a slow jog, or some other rhythmic aerobic activity. This will increase blood flow that will affect muscle temperature. Around 5-8 minutes is usually sufficient to produce mild perspiration, indicating readiness to begin the static phase.

Static warm up stretches the major muscles to be used in specific exercise or sports. This improves the flexibility of the muscles and the surrounding tendons and ligaments. A static stretch without a dynamic warm up could result in a muscle strain. Be very careful as to not stretch too far. When you over-stretch, you may trigger the "stretch reflex," contracting the muscle while it is lengthening rather than allowing it to relax. Do not hold pre-exercise stretches for more than 8-10 seconds.

In the specific phase, warm up is conducted using movements similar to those used in the specific exercise or sport. This sets up a pattern in your nervous system that you will be able to draw upon to reproduce the action more efficiently and quickly. Psychologically and physiologically you will be better prepared for any sports performance.

In cooling down, again there is a dynamic and a static phase. It is important to cool down dynamically to allow the extra blood transported to the extremity muscles during exercise, to return to the heart efficiently. Otherwise "blood pooling" may cause dizziness or fainting if not allowed to return to the heart fast enough.

Static stretching should complete the cool down phase and the workout. Following activity, stretching will help alleviate soreness and rid muscles of metabolic waste material. This is the best time to work on increasing flexibility because the muscles are completely warmed up. Stretches can be held for up to 60 seconds rather than the prescribed 8-10 during the static warm up phase. Once more, try to avoid over-stretching..

So the next time one of the excuses at the beginning of this article pop into your head, remember, you are not using your body to its best advantage. Someday it will catch up to you and you will be sorry. Therefore the rule of thumb is make the time for a better body and a better workout.

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