I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to skipping a warm-up at the gym. We often want to get in and out of a workout as quickly as possible. But as winter fast approaches, it’s crucial that we stop this habit and spend some time preparing our muscles and bodies to move.
Warm-ups help in a number of ways, especially during colder months. With decreasing temperatures comes an increased likelihood of muscle tightness, immobility and potential for injury. A good warm-up helps to:
- Improve blood flow and increase body temperature. Your cold muscles are like a stiff rubber band. If you stretch this stiff, cold rubber band too far, then you’ll probably watch it snap in half. Your muscles can do the same thing. When you spend time warming them up you’ll allow them to stretch further without breaking.
- Optimize training performance. Cold, stiff muscles feel tight and lethargic. When you spend time on a warm-up, you’ll wake them up and help them get ready to push through an entire workout. You’ll have more flexibility, better range of motion, ideal form and quicker response times as well. This helps you “stay in the game” longer and recover faster before your next workout.
A quality winter warm-up shouldn’t be a quick five-minute stint on a cardio machine. Stick to dynamic, body-weight exercises that mimic your actual workout. Avoid static stretching, which has been shown to increase the likelihood of injury and decrease performance. Move fluidly and at through all ranges of motion. Spend a minimum of 10 minutes with movements involving pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, moving side to side, and even in a diagonal or twisting fashion to get the best warm-up possible. Start slowly and gradually build speed near the end of your warm-up.