Monday, November 7, 2011

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Everyone has heard and been told to warm up before a match. And yet still many squash players do not prepare themselves properly. So what exactly does warming up do? In an article i recently read (A Functional Approach to Warm-up and Flexibility, Swanson 2006) it listed some of the physiological reasons why an athlete should warmup. The reasons they listed are;
'An active warm-up that increases the athlete's core temperature will improve performance by improving range of motion, producing a higher oxygen uptake, lowering lactate accumulations, increasing muscle pH, improving the speed and force of muscle contractions, and increasing the speed of transmission of nerve impulses.'

So for anyone who needed some valid reasons to make warming up a part of their routine, they now have it. And these are just the physiological reasons. When warming up an athlete can also prepare psychologically for the game. It would be a good idea to focus and review your strategy for the match and some athletes like to use imagery as well. A warmup needs to be rehearsed and is specific to the individual. A lot of this is accomplished from trial and error and will depend on the facility you are at, how much time you have, etc. But for anyone that wants to perform to the best of their ability on a consistent basis should be making a warm-up a part of their routine (for both practice and competition).

Lastly, when warming up there is little current research that says stretching is an effective way to warm-up and prevent injuries. I recommend biking, jogging, ghosting or even some light hitting followed by some dynamic stretches. How long and at what intensity is up to the individual. I like to have a light sweat and a good warm-up for me takes about 20-25 minutes. For a playing professional they might be spending much longer getting physically and psychologically prepared.

Cool Down
So the match/practice is over. Sometimes you get stuck reffing, you might have lost and not care about recovering quickly, or maybe you don't see the benefit of a proper cool down. To increase the recovery rate from training or any exercise, light aerobic activity is recommended. Again, I like to spend about 10 minutes on the bike and then do some static stretching. I also try and rehydrate as soon as possible. Light aerobic exercise increases blood flow and can cut your recovery time in half!

Now you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. If you are serious about your squash game and want to be the best you can be, recover faster, perform better, be able to practice and train more often then ask yourself the following questions. Do you warm-up and cool down properly? Before and after competition and practice? Could you improve your routine? How so? How do you make sure you stick to your new routine?

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