Preventing Muscle Soreness: Importance of warm up & cool down

Almost all swimmers have found their muscles to be sore at least at some point of training or competition. Most often it is the calf and the hamstring. This soreness, however, can be of two types:

Acute onset of muscle soreness: This occurs during or immediately post swim training session accompanied by fatigue. It is usually transient.

Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS): During intense sessions especially before a taper, small tears in the muscle tissue may cause delayed muscle pain accompanied with swelling, tension and stiffness. Muscles often become resistant to stretching. This muscle pain becomes evident post 12 hours of training and lasts for 24 to 48 hours after which it gradually subsides.

There are very many factors that can cause soreness, these are also usually the ones that hamper recovery:

Today’s article will highlight the importance of warm up & cool down!

Warm up

At least 15 minutes of adequate warm up before starting main sets is crucial because warming up has its own set of benefits predominantly gradual increases in the following:

  • Blood flow to the working muscles
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Oxygen & nutrient uptake
  • Breathing rate
  • Body temperature & muscle elasticity

On failing to perform adequate warm up, cold muscles become susceptible to injuries, joints remain stiff restricting range of motion and muscles contract slowly. All of these lead to under-performance.

Cool Down

Swimming at higher intensities with shorter intervals often leads to a build-up of metabolites such as hydrogen ions and lactate which need to be eliminated. The continuous accumulation of these without adequate removal can make the next swimming session even difficult to swim.

Cool down, therefore, has the following benefits to offer apart from lactate removal:

  • Cool down promises gradual removal of these metabolites, however, cool down at a higher intensity may just land up building the lactate again while cool down at too low an intensity may not increase circulation to eliminate it.
  • Cool down is important to prevent DOMS and thus aid in recovery. Cool down facilitates exactly the opposite of what warm up does and causes a gradual decrease in all the above parameters.
  • Failing to cool down can also cause blood pooling around the arms and legs, reducing the blood supply to the heart & thus brain causing light headedness or giddiness.

Swimmers, make sure you perform your dose of warm up & cool down every single day to fight muscle soreness!

Author: Mihira A R Khopkar

B.Sc. Dietetics, M.Sc. Sports Nutrition


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