This week for our training topic let’s take a step back by not necessarily focusing on exercises per se, but how we get to the conditioning portion of a workout session. You might think that exercise is exercise, but wait, did you start your last session feeling extremely stiff beforehand or possibly suffer an injury the last time you really exerted yourself? Hmm… Could this have been because you didn’t actually warm-up?!
Ah yes, the warm-up is an essential part of a well-rounded exercise routine! Hold up, I know what you are about to ask me, and that is if a warm-up is really necessary. You might even be thinking of that scene in Zombieland where Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) says, “You ever seen a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?” Although, I do find that movie hilarious, I actually would have to take Columbus’s (Jessie Eisenberg) side on this one with his rule number 18 of Zombieland to limber up. If I lost you on this one because you never saw the movie (which you should asap), the point is still the same that you should always warm-up before exerting yourself to prevent injury.
Think about your muscles as really big and strong rubberbands. If a rubberband has not been used in awhile it is not as elastic and has a higher potential of breaking. However, if you take the time to gradually stretch the rubberband it becomes more elastic and performs better when you want to launch it across the room at your co-worker. The same thing applies to your muscles; they need to gradually be warmed up and stretched in a way that is similar to the activity you are preparing to perform.
As you may expect, the point of a warm-up is to increase the temperature of the body by gently increasing the heart rate and circulation. When more blood circulates through the muscles and joints they become warmer and looser, which makes them easier to stretch beyond their resting length and can prevent injury during the sport or workout.
How to Warm-up
If you are just beginning a low intensity exercise program a warm-up including a walk on a treadmill for about 3 to 5 minutes with slight stretching will suffice. Some basic dynamic stretches I include in low intensity exercise warm-ups include gentle head circles, arm circles, shoulder shrugs, wrist circles, high-knee marching, mini-squats, and heel raises. Think about that childhood song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!”
Here is an example of one of my dynamic warm-ups for more experienced exercisers including 1 set of 8 to 10 repetitions of each dynamic stretch/exercise:
After these dynamic stretches you’ll feel warmer, your heart pumping, and ready to begin your workout session, but this time at a lesser risk of injury! I know you wouldn’t want to regress in your fitness program from an injury that could have otherwise been prevented by taking a few minutes to warm-up beforehand.
You can also get your muscles ready for exercise and decrease muscle tightness by incorporating foam rolling into your warm-ups. Foam rolling is a myofascial release technique used to loosen up the tissue that surrounds your muscles. To get your own foam roller, simply visit our Fitness Equipment list on Amazon, or for other fitness related products go to our Product Recommendations page.
I expect by next week you all should watch or rewatch Zombieland so you can understand the true meaning of rule number 18: limber up! Warm-up to stay Happily Ever Healthy!