Just like you might prepare for your next road trip, a meeting with your boss, or a big presentation, you should also prepare your body for activities and workouts.
Warming up before physical exertion provides protective benefits and helps make the most of your efforts, too. Still, many people skip this important step of their routine.
Beginning with the Benefits
When you’re about to work out, your body is at a resting temperature – your workout is likely to raise that temperature at its core and in its muscles, too. When you first increase body and muscle temperature (aka: warm up), things get a bit looser and more pliable. You also increase blood flow, which brings oxygen and other nutrients to your muscles as they work.
All this is going to happen when you get into the main portion of your workout, but easing in with a warm-up gets the process started sooner, and helps avoid injuries in certain areas that tend to be more vulnerable, such as stiffer joints and tighter tendons.
A warm-up provides mental and functional preparation as well. You can bring increasing energy, or calm focus, to your starting moments of exercise. And you can work on controlled versions of motions you will be performing when you hit your full stride.
No matter what type of exercise you’re about to do, allowing up to 15 minutes to warm up before getting into your full routine is an excellent idea. This timing is often built into a group fitness class, but if you’re on your own, here are some guidelines for three main elements to include:
- General Low Intensity Movement: Think of this part of your warm-up as simply revving up the engine. A walk around the track, small side to side steps shaking out those arms. It’s a few minutes of transition from being still to working out.
- Sport-Specific/Functional Movement: Whatever you’re going to do, the idea here is to do a smaller, lighter, or slower version for a few minutes. You can literally jog before you run, reach shoulders to sky with no barbell, etc.
- Dynamic Stretching: There is enough question about the effects of static stretching on strength performance to suggest dynamic stretching instead for your pre-workout choice. That means stretching to increase your range of motion, but not holding your stretch in one static position for a long time. Some examples include: big arm circles and clapping forward and behind to stretch your shoulders, large walking lunging stretch your hips and calves, lunging side to side to stretch inner thighs, or reaching over head and across to stretch your torso.
When you’re done with your warm up, you should feel more prepared to stay in top form as you get fit!