Your Warm Up: Why Bother?

Emma Oko

Sheffield, United Kingdom

Personal Training

Is all this twisting and folding really necessary?

 

When we warm up, either by stretching or performing a moderated version of the activity to come, we're preparing our bodies in several different ways—three of which are crucial to our performance, recovery, and outcome.

 

 

The Pulse Raiser

Isn't it nicer to be woken up gently rather than a bucket of cold water in the face? When it comes to exercise we should treat our hearts with the same courtesy. A gradual rise in intensity rather than a sudden spike will better prepare the heart for what's coming. The pulse raising element of a warm up should leave us breathless but still able to complete a spoken sentence.

 

The Role of Mobility

As our bodies begin to move, your synovial joints (think heels, knees, hips, and shoulders) release synovial fluid for lubrication and to protect the cartilage at the head of the bone. As muscle fibers start to lengthen and contract, most of us notice an increased range of motion in the limbs. This improvement in flexibility is increased by the generation of body heat but it's also due to the breakdown of fascia, the connective tissue that covers our muscles.

 

After a few minutes of repetitive movement muscles become more elastic and a greater amount of blood, enriched with oxygen and other essential nutrients, is delivered to them. At this point some of us have that lovely feeling of getting into our stride. Sufficient oxygen levels in the working muscles will hold back the lactic threshold so we can keep going for longer before fatigue sets in.

 

Take a Moment for Flexibility

Our range of motion (how far we can reach with our limbs) determines the amount of skilled movement we can put in to our chosen activity. The more quality and quantity of effort we put in, the more we'll get out so it's crucial that we put as much focus on our flexibility as we do with every other part of our fitness training.

 

There are various stretching techniques and in order to select the right one it's a good idea to consider the activity you're going to be doing—for example you could loosen your shoulders before a game of tennis by swinging your arms back and forth. A pre-workout stretch might require dynamic (active) stretches but keep in mind this can sometimes have the unwanted effect of overexciting the surrounding muscles. In an unmonitored environment, passive or static stretches are the safer and more effective option.

 

Time to Get Warm

When your warm up is complete there's a lot less resistance between what the body wants to do and what the mind is ready to face. In other words, a good warm up ultimately connects the mind and body and get us in the zone for an awesome session.

 

Here's a gentle warm up routine that includes dynamic compound stretches and a pulse raiser or two:

 

 

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