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. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Foam Rolling 101

If you are suffering from tight, sore muscles or chronic trouble spots, then you may have heard that a foam roller could be your answer. Now, most of us have heard the term foam roller and may even have a friend that uses one religiously and is always recommending it, but what is it, and why is everyone making such a fuss about it?

What it is and what it does.

If you’re not familiar with what a foam roller is, it is a cylindrical shaped piece of foam that can be used in self-myofascial-release,a specific form of deep tissue massage designed to release trigger points in the body. It can be manipulated in various ways to bring relief to tight and painful areas and can be especially beneficial when combined with a stretching routine. If you have never had the experience of using a foam roller, you definitely don’t know what you are missing! I couldn't manage without mine.It enables me to run mostly pain free, and it's often the first thing clients ask me about when I walk through their doors.

foam roller
Photo Credit: Tami Ulrich

Buying a Foam Roller.

Available in varying densities and styles, foam rollers can be found at many retailers for as little as $20, a small investment considering what these little guys can do. When shopping for a foam roller, it is important to consider color as most rollers are color coded for density. A white or lightly colored foam roller indicates a lower density foam, perfect for use as an exercise prop or for those new to foam rolling. Typically, the deeper the color, the denser the roller. When in doubt, just give it a squeeze. The firmest rollers or professional grade foam rollers will not easily give way to pressure. Choose a lower density roller if just starting out.

Using Your Foam Roller.

Many foam rollers available for purchase come with a step-by-step guide demonstrating the body positions and techniques used to work various areas of the body. When using your foam roller, move your body over the roller as if working dough with a rolling pin, using short and slow movements. Increased the length of your movement, still maintaining a slow and controlled pattern. Give extra attention to any especially tender areas you find along the way, pausing on these points to help with their release. When rolling, it is important to remember to never pass the foam roller along joints or bony areas or the lower back or spine. Foam rolling is usually uncomfortable at first, sometimes even a little painful, especially if you have a lot of tender points that need to be released. Don’t be surprised if a few seconds is all you can withstand for your first session. As your muscles and fascia respond to foam rolling, you will be able to tolerate greater pressure and densities as well as longer sessions--a few minutes is usually all that is really needed. Continued use can lead to greater flexibility and less pain when performing desired activities.


As with any exercise or activity, please check with your doctor to make sure you do not have a condition in which this activity could be contraindicated.