She asked “Why do I need to warm up or cool down?”

She asked “Why do I need to warm-up or cool-down?“.

As I have mentioned previously, I recently completed an 8 week training program prescribed by the American College of Sports Medicine. This is not the first time I have completed the program. It is what I do in the cold, wet months when I cycle less. I do the workouts indoors on a spinning bike focussing on endurance, speed and technique.

This year, I did something a little differently. First, twice a week I included a modified strength training workout that focused on the legs and core. Single-leg squats, planks, hamstring curls and a variety of Pilates exercises. After all, this is the cycling engine. And secondly, I included a 10-15 minute warm-up and cool-down before and after each and every session, regardless how I may have felt. In the past, I would neglect this thinking I didn’t have the time or, that it wasn’t really necessary. It’s the workout that counts. Right?

Not so fast.

There are real benefits to a warm-up and cool-down. I experience less muscle soreness following workouts and recover more quickly which allows me to workout more frequently.

When I cycle outside, I seldom warm-up or cool-down. I simply jump on the bike and go. I may start out slowly but always finish fast and hard and then, hit the shower. This season, I am going to at least make an effort to cool-down (and stretch) following every ride.

I said to her “These are the reasons you warm-up and cool-down …

The warm-up …

  • increases the body temperature
  • reduces the potential for muscle and connective tissue injuries
  • delivers more blood (and nutrients) to the muscles
  • increases blood flow to the heart reducing the occurrence of exercise-induce cardiac events
  • makes the muscles more supple helping to reduce injury
  • prepares the cardiovascular system for a workout
  • reduces excessive muscle soreness, and
  • prepares the athlete mentally for what is ahead (a hard workout)

The cool-down …

  • avoids sudden dizziness
  • reduces muscle soreness by distributing built up lactic acid away from the muscles, and
  • enables blood to circulate throughout the body caring nutrients and oxygen to the muscles accelerating recovery

Some of this is controversial.

Some athletes do not prescribe to the need for a warm-up or cool-down and, point out there is no conclusive medical evidence to prove either reduced muscle soreness or faster recovery. Personally, I believe it depends on how you define workout. A workout means different things to different people. Some workouts are more taxing than others.

I can comment on what I experience. My workouts were (and still are) difficult, taxing my leg muscles and heart to the limit. They are more demanding than most of my road rides. I find if I do not warm-up and cool-down for 10-15 minutes, I am sore and tired the next day.

Do you warm-up? Cool-down?


JJ Bean is a local coffee roaster with a chain of cafes strategically located throughout the city on all of my bike routes. The one pictured above has just opened in my neighbourhood and, I suspect, will become a regular pit stop following my rides. Great coffee, vegetarian/vegan lunch selections and, where this post was drafted.



7 thoughts on “She asked “Why do I need to warm up or cool down?”

  1. I only warm up and cool down for interval days… On Tuesday night club rides I warm up but don’t cool down. Don’t know how I feel about it either way though… I just do it because “they” say to.

  2. I only bother with cooling down after long rides and commuting days. My cooling down routine is walking my dogs and then stretching. If I fail to stretch out I feel it later on. Also if I go more than a week without stretching properly, I lose some flexibility.
    Personally, even if I didn’t see a difference, I would still cool down (I have to walk my dogs anyway) and I really like taking the time to relax after a ride before moving on to other activities.

    • In those temperatures, I wouldn’t think you would need to cool-down.

      I am with you. I need to stretch. In fact, if I only had time for 1 activity, it would be stretching. I have done a lot of yoga and Pilates. Afterward, I feel relaxed, revived and confident.

      I do the spinning workouts at a racquet club I belong to. I usually walk there and back. It takes ~ 30 minutes each way and this time prepares me mentally for the workout and helps me to unwind afterward.

      Thanks for the comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s