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Warm up & cool down

Before any type of exercise, you must perform a warm up and cool down. Aside from injury prevention, a warm up and cool down will also provide many other benefits.

First, increasing the amount of blood that is flowing to the tissues will help to increase the strength level that is experienced and therefore help you perform better. This is particularly the case when it comes to weight lifting exercise.

Next, a warm up and cool down will also help to get you 'mentally ready' for the activity. Beforehand you will want to start thinking about increasing your motivational levels. This is sometimes referred to as 'psyching oneself up'. After the activity is finished, then it is a good time to reflect upon your performance so you can see what you did well and what you need to work on for next time. If it is just a simple exercise session that you performed - say a weight lifting workout or cardio session - then you can use this time as a way to relax the mind so not only are you getting positive physical conditioning from the workout but you are also getting mental benefits as well.

You can do a variety of activities to accomplish these goals. The first and probably most basic would be getting on a treadmill and doing five to ten minutes of light walking or jogging before your workout takes place. If you aren't too fond of walking then you could do the same on the bike or the elliptical machines as well. It is important to note however that this is not supposed to be intense by any means, rather it's solely serving to get your limbs moving and increase the circulation throughout the body. Save the intense cardio work for when you actually have a session dedicated strictly towards cardio.

Another option you can do is basic arm and leg swings. The key here is to work on slowly increasing the range of movement you cover while not swinging the limbs so uncontrollably that you no longer have control. It should be a gentle swing that allows you to feel a small degree of stretch but also loosens up the body at the same time.

Finally, post-workout you may choose to engage in a whole other type of activity such as yoga. This is a great finish to any workout and will not only serve to increase your flexibility but also promote a healthy mind as well.

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