You hop into your car after work. Eat a clementine in the gym parking lot. Lace up your sneakers in the locker room and hit the cardio room floor 5-minutes before the post-workday rush. You step onto a treadmill and start pounding out a 6-minute mile. At this rate, you’ll get an extra mile in during your hour at the gym. You’re on fire today! Wait! Not so fast! Seriously. Slow down. Learn how to prevent workout injuries with the proper warm up.
On days when everything falls into place, slowing down to warm-up might feel like you’re breaking a perfect-timing mo-jo. On days when you’re running late, it might be even harder to convince yourself to take the time to ease into movement. It’s not like you see friends Tweeting #glowinglikegold #bestwarmupever. Rather, it is often outright neglected. However, skipping your warm-up is high stakes. It’s like driving a lumbering station wagon onto a busy Formula One track. A well-executed warm-up will help get you to the finish line with decreased risk of crashing.
A workout, no matter what kind, involves pushing one’s body past comfortable limits; cardiovascularly, muscularly or both in order to trigger repair that makes the body stronger. The warm-up is an injury preventing bridge between “rest” and the exhilarating endorphin-filled world of “workout.” It should be well-thought out, gradually build intensity and range of motion and include movements that ready both the mind and body for the workout to come.
A proper warm-up does four main things:
- Gradually increases heart rate and blood flow to ease oxygen delivery to working muscles
- Slowly raises core body temperature, so you break a sweat
- Gets muscles and joints that will be involved in the workout moving from a small-range to full-range-of-motion to increase elasticity
- Wakes up the brain with better oxygen flow and gives you time to mentally shift into a focused workout mode
What Should a Warm-Up Look Like?
Length: In general, a warm-up should take about 5-10 minutes. However, if you are working out just after waking up, make it longer. Most individuals need extra time to achieve mental alertness and physical elasticity when they roll out of bed.
Movements: What you do in the warm-up depends on your anticipated workout. Seek movements that are “rehearsal” moves for what’s to come. For example, if you are going to run, walk a bit and build to a slow jog. If you’ve got “leg day” on your weight room plate, do some easy lunges. Start with small, shallow movements that mimic workout moves and progress gradually to full-range-of-motion.
Stretching: Yes, you should stretch during a warm-up. But DON’T hold static stretches! Instead, seek active stretches that allow you to move fluidly. Examples are a conservative walking lunge to warm-up hip flexors and quadriceps, heel walking to ready the feet and calves and the like.
Remember warm-ups prevent workout injuries and boost performance . Give it some #warmuprespect!