Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Lowdown on Warm-Ups

Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down the various workout phases, exploring the types of activities that make up these phases and discussing their importance. Today, I'll be starting with the phase that should be included at the start of every workout--the warm-up. 

Why Do I Need to Warm Up?

Warming up before a workout provides a transition period for your muscles and cardiovascular system, preparing them for the increase in workload that’s ahead. Warming up can improve your range of motion, increase muscle performance and may help reduce the chance of injury. It may also prevent cardiac ischemia which can occur with sudden strenuous exertion. 

What Activities Should I Be Doing?

A good warm-up begins with a general cardiovascular activity that incorporates large muscle groups. Walking, marching or jogging in place and biking are examples of this type of exercise. Choose an activity that mimics your planned workout. For example, if you plan on going for a brisk walk or run, walking would be an excellent warm-up exercise. It's important to start out nice and easy and increase your intensity gradually as you move through this phase. Do not rush this process. Dynamic stretches may also be included in your warm-up and should focus on the muscles and joints to be used. Dynamic stretches are active stretches that help loosen and warm the joints and muscles by moving them repeatedly through their full range of motion. Dynamic stretches should be performed gently. Leg swings, walking butt kicks and arm circles are all examples of dynamic stretches.

Photo Credit: Adam Ulrich

How Long Should My Warm-Up Last?

Now that we understand why we need to be warming up and what activities we should be including, it's time to talk about duration. A typical warm-up will last at least 5 to 10 minutes, but this will vary depending on the length and intensity of  your intended workout. As the intensity and length of your workout increases, so should the length of your warm-up. 

Remember to take your time, increase intensity gradually, and give your body what it needs. By providing your body with a well-designed warm-up, you are laying a safe foundation for a successful and fulfilling workout.