Finding the time to work out is hard enough. Sometimes it seems like it takes longer to prepare for a workout than actually doing one. Maybe you’re procrastinating, maybe you just really like to have everything perfect. Either way, most of the things you do before a workout aren’t that important. It doesn’t really matter if you have your favorite water bottle or if you’ve got your favorite song on, but there is one step you should never skip: the warm up.
Why Warm Up?
There are two main reasons to warm up before you exercise; preventing injury (which is very important), and increased performance (which is very nice). Let’s explain how this works.
Warming up prevents injury through a process of increasing the body’s temperature and increasing blood flow to the muscles. Warming up your body helps to make it more limber. Like Jillian Micheals always explains, our muscles are like elastic bands. When cold, if you pull them really fast, they rip, but if you warm them up, they can be stretched beyond what you thought possible. So warming up allows us to stretch our muscles and the connective tissues around them without any rips or tears putting us out of commission for weeks.
Not only does an increased body temperature help our muscles but also our heart. By gradually increasing the temperature of our heart we decrease the risk of exercise-induced heart attacks. Many studies have shown the effect of just 15 seconds of exercise on the heart without warm up can be devastating even for people without prior heart problems.
Warming up increases your performance during your workout through many different avenues. The increased oxygen in the blood helps deliver essential nutrients to your muscles for peak energy and performance. It also prepares the respiratory and muscular systems for the beating ahead. Instead of going into a workout without warning, a warm up allows your body to get ready for a long sweat session. So instead of burning out halfway through, you can complete the workout with much more ease. Warming up also gives you more coordination so you won’t fall or make a fool out of yourself with any difficult moves.
How Should You Warm Up?
A warm up doesn’t have to be very long, but the longer the warm up, the more effective it will be. Warm ups should be anywhere between 5-15 minutes. Any less and your body may not have reached optimal temperature for injury prevention.
A warm up can be as simple as a fast walk around the track but should include some dynamic movements like arm circles, skipping, and jumping jacks. You should make sure that your warm up will target the muscles you are going to be using the most in your workout and include some light cardio to prepare the heart and lungs. For example, if you will be lifting weights focusing on your arms, arm circles, arm swings, hugs, and light jogging in place will help to get the blood flowing to your arm muscles before you put that stress on them.
Don’t stress out too much on the warm up because the only wrong way to warm up is not at all.