A good warm-up is the first step to your best workout
I remember the days when I went to exercise and I just started doing it. I would walk out the door and break into a run. Throw aside my towel and start swimming laps. Walk into a dance class and start chasséing and kicking. Young bodies are amazing and can easily shrug off the torture we might put them through especially if you’re fit. But then I hit 40 (or was it 35? Odd I know since my kids think I’m 29) and things started to stiffen or hurt. That’s when I started to really understand my fitness trainings and the emphasis on warming up properly.
If you read no further into this article take note of this:
You must prepare your body each time for exercise by warming up your muscles for better performance and injury prevention.
With the start of the New Year I’m emphasizing the importance of this so my clients will make the effort to get to my group exercise classes on time. Like most instructors I put a lot of thought and experience into the structure of the class for it to be a safe and effective workout. Those who are committed to their fitness and health should understand warming up is the first step.
How do you do it?
- Start slow and move your body through the range of motion it will be doing for your workout.
- This will increase your heart rate, body temperature and blood flow.
- You’ll also warm up joints and activate your neural muscular system.
If your muscles are warmed up for the activity you’re doing, when you increase your weight or dynamic movements you’re less prone to pulling or straining a muscle or ligament. I can remember a few occasions when I broke into a sprint to recover a flying disc at the beginning of an Ultimate Frisbee game and strained a hamstring. The same happened when I thrust my cold leg into a high kick during dance class. Not fun.
We see many people show up at the gym and do a few minutes on the treadmill and then start lifting heavy weights. Or often people walk into my group exercise class late and jump right into the most intense part of the class. I’d bet money that many of these people are either not getting the most out of their workout, their muscles fatigue too early, suffer some joint pain or worse, become injured.
What I find when I don’t fully warm-up is I never really get going. I’ve basically sabotaged my workout.
Your body needs six to 10-minutes to warm-up.
That’s about how long it takes for the body temperature to rise, blood vessels to dilate and to start producing the extra energy you need for your workout. Jogging on the treadmill is a good start and increases your core temperature. But if you’re going to lift weights start off light and go through the exercises you’ll perform. Similarly with any cardio exercise start slow and go through exercises that will move your body into high reaches and lows squats, wide stances, lunges and other dynamic moves. Be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
A warm-up can be boring, if you let it. Instead of mindlessly going through the motions use this time to get psyched up like an athlete. Channel a sports star or fitness figure you admire and get your head into the workout. While you’re elevating your heart rate repeat a mantra like “just do it” or “I am strong”. A motivational song helps too. I like to play “All I do is Win” by DJ Khaled. Make your mind ready to push yourself and tell yourself that it’s going to be a good workout. As I constantly tell my classes “The body will achieve what the mind believes”.
American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Warm-Up-Cool-Down_UCM_430168_Article.jsp#.Vo2U4DbpjzI
Sports Medicine: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/injuryprevention/a/aa071001a.htm