Some say that half the battle is being ready to get fitter and do some exercise. To do that, you need to prepare your body mentally and physically. A warm up helps you focus on getting the most out of your activity. A warm down is essential, as it helps your body recovers from exertion and carries on benefiting from calorie use.
Whatever your experience, include warm up exercises that are right for your fitness level. If you're going to do half an hour's brisk walking for example, then start by stretching and making sure you build up to that ideal pace slowly.
- Loosen up the joints and muscles you'll be using
- Practice the right techniques – get to know what feels right
- See if you have any muscle tightness you need to deal with
Stretching is an excellent activity to include in your warm up - and down. Move gently and gradually, don’t overdo it. It’s a great way to improve flexibility and can help to improve your posture too.
A light cardiovascular workout is good, because cardio work pumps oxygen-rich blood through your muscles. This helps to flush out any waste products. Don't underestimate the value of warming down properly: it could make a big difference to your overall recovery levels.
Refuel, rehydrate and relax
Strictly speaking, you should be hydrating (drinking water) while you’re exercising. But when you’ve finished your exercise, take on board some fluids and carbohydrate-rich snacks - like a banana, or cereal bar. Many 'energy drinks' contain lots of sugar: you should only use these as part of a balanced diet. And don't forget, your body refuels best immediately after training. Capitalise on that efficiency as much as you can.