Warming Up vs. Stretching- Is There A Difference?

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Warm up exercises and stretching are often lumped together when discussing pre-workout routines, however they are two distinct principles. For an optimal workout, both are important. When performing warm up exercises, you are increasing your body temperature and slowly preparing your body for the workout. According to the Boston Herald, “If one stretches the muscles without proper warm-up, the muscles are cold and are more prone to injury, such as a muscle tear or strain.” Warming up can be achieved through a period of running in place, jumping rope or easy pedaling on a bike. Skipping the warmup and going straight to stretching can lead to injury as your muscles need warmth to achieve optimal stretch.

When stretching, you are specifically focusing on stretching your muscles. Research has shown that range of motion can be increased by a thirty second stretch for each muscle group per day. However, this may vary for each individual and some people may need to stretch each muscle group for a longer period of time. The Mayo Clinic advises that when you are stretching, “focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. And make sure that you stretch both sides.”

An optimal workout consists of a solid warmup, a period of stretching, a strenuous workout which increases the heart rate and a cool down period which may include stretching. If you make time for each of these workout portions, you will experience fewer injuries and increase your workout potential. We are all pressed for time, trying to squeeze a workout into a busy schedule.  However, keep in mind that the warmup and stretching is as important as the main part of your workout.

Inevitably, we all are faced with an injury at some point in our lives. Hopefully, it is not too severe and with proper rest and possibly rehab we slowly work ourselves back to where we were in our pre-injury workout routine. It is the slow period of trying to get back to where were were that is the most frustrating. My husband is still dealing with his lower back injury and working with a physical therapist.  It may be another month before he will be able to slowly work his way back to his pre-injury workouts. So this weekend we went on a hike!

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We drove to Montauk Point State Park and went on a 3-mile, 2- hour guided Seal Hike. Our guide, biologist Tish, peppered the hike with interesting information about the seal population on Long Island and fun facts about the local marine life.  We hiked one and a half miles to the seal observation area and one and a half miles back, wearing hiking boots, heavy coats and backpacks. It was terrific exercise briskly hiking through the woods and on the beach in the dry sand. We were rewarded by the sight of five Harbor Seals sunning themselves on a giant rock close to the shore.  On a bluff above the beach, through binoculars, we watched the seals wiggle, arch their backs and playfully slide into the water. The cost is $4.00 per person, reservations are required and you can find out more information at 631-668-5000.

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