Let’s talk warming up prior to exercise. A warm-up is the preparation phase prior to a workout session. What this looks like for each individual may look very different. Hopefully, after reading this you will have a better idea of what’s best for you.
Warming up is a smart idea and done for various reasons.
What happens to the body when we warm up?
● We are slightly elevating the temperature of our muscles hence the body which produces an increase in the activity of oxygen in the blood with an increase in muscle blood flow.
● Muscle viscosity is reduced which gives you smoother moving muscles, less sensation of stiffness and a higher potential to produce power.
● Nervous system with heightened sensitivity, and an increase in the speed of nervous impulses.
● Essential for increasing movement of synovial fluid in the joints. Synovial fluid is the lubrication between your cartilage.
What about the mind while we are preparing for some exercise?
Mentally prepare yourself for a workout. Spending time doing some version of a warm-up gives you time to focus your thoughts and energy on the plan ahead. Ideally, you would have a plan before you get there and visualize how your workout will look and feel. But a thoughtful warm-up will help to reduce the possibility of injuries.
Be mindful about what you want to do today and want to achieve. Having a written plan is also a good idea.
It may even be a good time to reflect on your day. What could you have done better and what went well and why?
While you are being mindful take this time to assess what feels tight, niggly and how you feel emotionally. I mean do you feel tired, like you want to do this? Are you excited and where is your mind focusing more? Exercise is a great way to take your mind away from daily life for a bit. So just take note and try to get the most out of your warm up as possible. Get excited that you are doing something positive for your body. It’s the most precious gift you’ll ever have.
What does the warm-up consist of?
This will be different depending on your goal and yourself. It may look like some light cardio, light dumbbell work, specific body movements that replicate the exercise you are about to perform, any release of the muscles (triggering), foam rolling, static stretches, dynamic stretches, or mobility drills. When I work with clients the warm up is individualised. It is dependant upon their program, occupation (sitting down all day, travelling a lot, doing a lot of overhead work, etc.) So we may spend more time loosening up the lower back, hip flexors, extra time on the rower or just some shoulder hanging. There really is loads you can do here.
Warming up doesn’t always have to be in the form of cardio equipment. It might look like some light 2kg dumbbells going through 4-5 shoulder activation moves. It might look like 20 body weight (air) squats before a barbell front squat session or maybe some resistance band targeting for those sleepy shoulder blades or butt muscles.
Cardio machines are great to warm up on. They are multi-joint exercises and you gradually increase the intensity to that of your workout. If you are someone who has asthma especially exercise-induced or a medical condition then this will be critical for you to build the intensity slowly.
How long should I warm up for?
The time you take warming up could be between 3-15 minutes. It really depends on what you are about to do and how long your workout is. If you plan to have a very intense CrossFit workout you’re going to want to be ready!! If you’re over 40 you might like to take a bit more time too. If you only have a 30-minute circuit then 2 minutes of light rowing followed by 2 minutes of mobility could work. If you have 60-minute strength session with squats, deadlifts, bench and rowing included you may want to spend 3-minute foam rolling, 5 minutes on the cross trainer, 2 minutes light mobility drills for example, and not necessarily in that order. You may even just use the bar only and do some high reps in each respective exercise.
Trial and error here is best and always revert back to your inner awareness of what feels adequate. I can’t emphasise this enough. Even if we are in a rush we should still do a warm up. You might begin the workout a bit slower and lighter than normal while increasing intensity, resistance, weight, or speed as you go.
Until next time stay well and dominate.