Words by Hallie Saculla
Photos by Mia DiLorento

The KSU Men’s Rugby team warms up and conditions before practice. This drill is used to help build balance and stability.

For many students, squeezing a workout into an already demanding schedule is a hassle. As students rush through a cardio session to check the next thing off their to-do list, they might be causing more harm than good.

The importance of performing a warm up and cool down routine when engaging in physical activity is significant. While a warm up routine prepares the body for a workout by increasing heart rate, a cool down routine gives the body time to return to a natural heart rate.

By increasing heart rate, the muscles are supplied with more blood, ultimately preventing injury by increasing the elasticity of the muscle and stimulating tissue response.

“If one just jumped into a workout with heavy loads, their body would not respond as efficiently as if they’d performed a proper warm up,” says Danielle Short, an athletic training graduate teacher and research assistant.

When muscles are receiving a higher blood supply, the oxygen and nutrients needed to perform a workout are abundant, says Ryan Deane, assistant athletic trainer for Kent State football, field hockey and soccer.

“Elasticity of the muscle, or how much it can stretch, allows unrestricted range of motion which prevents injury and allows for greater work output,” Deane says. “Muscle activation is the most important concept in regards to preventing injury; the higher the muscle activation, the more prepared the body is for the stresses of a workout.”

According to Short, the duration and technique of a warm up routine differs with each individual depending on the activity they are preparing to do.

“[The warm up routine] could take anywhere from 5-15 minutes,” she says. “For instance, if my main movement of the day is a back squat, after my dynamic warm up, I would include a few hip mobility exercises.”

Upon finishing a workout, the cool down, or recovery process, will limit some of the soreness due to working out and retain joint range of motion. Deane suggests “stretching and foam rolling to facilitate that process.”

A cool down routine can be as quick as five minutes to ensure soft tissue release.

In light of the Oregon Ducks football players being hospitalized after workouts in January, the training Kent State athletes go through to ensure a safe workout hinders them from similar accidents.

While training and warm up regimes differ with each sport, all athletes have access to a sport dietitian who assists in the education and implementation of a proper nutrition plan. Maintaining a healthy diet provides the essential nutrients and energy to safely perform a high-level workout.

All weight lifting and training are led by a certified strength and conditioning coach, so proper form is continually taught and enforced.

Athletes are also welcome to use the Sports Medicine Department, also referred to as the Athletic Training Department, in the M.A.C. Annex, which helps them prepare and recover from events. Some of the most popular tools are the warm and cold whirlpools, NormaTec and Rapid Reboot units and foam rollers.

“In addition [to the Sports Medicine Department], the warm up routines are generally more difficult and longer than most workouts an average person does, which allow the athletes to train at such a higher level,” Deane says.

For those who aren’t training at an athlete’s level, Short encourages individuals to have a trained professional lead you or initially instruct you if possible.

“I’d rather have someone have great technique with little weight on an exercise [rather than] loading on the weight and having poor technique,” Short says. “Trust your body. If something begins to hurt abnormally, or if you don’t feel quite right, take a break or stop.”

Hallie Saculla is the  recreation and fitness reporter for The Burr.