Benefits Of Warming Up Before Exercising
If you have a personal trainer, you will be all too familiar with the warm-up. It’s an essential and necessary part of any program that they give you. If you participate in group workout sessions at the gym too, whether that’s HIIT training like Tabata, circuits, a Pilates class or spin, a warm-up is an integral part of the overall session. It’s certainly something they’d never advocate skipping. Whatever sport you participate in, at amateur or professional level, the benefits of an appropriate warm-up are undeniable. We’re not just talking physiological benefits, but also psychological ones. What you are doing is preparing your body and mind for what’s to come and getting yourself in the zone, so to speak.
All The Benefits Of Warming Up Before Exercising
It’s a familiar enough story. You’re pressed for time and want to squeeze an effective workout into your lunch hour. Surely you can get straight down to business and cut out both the preamble and the post-cool-down stretches? Well, you could, but we’re about to tell you why you shouldn’t.
Here’s the low down on what you need to know about the importance of warming up before exercising.
The Key Benefits
Firstly, it’s about preparing your body, especially your heart, lungs, and the core muscles you’re going to be working on, for the more strenuous activity to follow. Warming up is like giving your body a quick MOT before you put it through its paces.
Lots of things happen to your body before, during, and after you exercise, and it’s vital that you respect and listen to what your body is telling you on the day. We are all individuals, and each day is different. By being in tune with your body, you can avoid the risk of injury and in particular, pulling any muscles.
Here’s Why You Should Warm-Up
1. The Temperature Of Your Muscles Increases
Your muscles begin to warm up, contracting and relaxing more forcibly, which means that you’re less susceptible to overstretching and pulling a muscle. If you go in hard and fast while your body is still cold, you run a much higher chance of getting injured. As your overall body temperature starts to rise with even a small amount of exertion, your muscle elasticity improves, which can help make you stronger and more flexible.
2. Your Blood Temperature Rises
When you start warming up, the temperature of your blood increases as it travels through your muscles. As the temperature goes up, fresh oxygenated blood pumps around your body, which can significantly increase your levels of endurance. That means your body is better prepared to go harder and faster for longer.
3. Your Blood Vessels Begin To Dilate
As part of your body preparing itself, blood vessels dilate to carry that fresh blood flow effectively around your body, which means the heart is put under far less initial pressure.
4. Your Range Of Physical Motion Is Enhanced
By having less pressure put on your major internal organs and prepping your body for more strenuous exercise, those larger weight-bearing joints like the shoulders and knees are warm, pliable, flexible and able to move to their full potential.
5. You Avoid Overheating
So far we’ve talked a lot about generating heat, raising both your body and blood temperature but if you don’t do this in a controlled way, you run the risk of overheating once you do start exercising. It’s like a process of acclimatization. Your body gets into a natural rhythm of being able to cool itself down before you go hell for leather and hit the spin bike or the treadmill at full pelt.
6. Hormonal Changes Begin To Happen
Anyone who exercises regularly will already be hooked on that feeling of euphoria, which follows a workout when endorphins are raging high. However, during the warm-up phase, you’re also encouraging other useful hormones to be produced. Specifically, cortisol and epinephrine which are vital in regulating energy production. These hormones have an essential part to play in transferring carbohydrates and fatty acids into energy.
7. You Can Prepare Yourself Mentally
As we said at the beginning, a warm-up, even one of just five to ten minutes, can help you mentally prepare yourself and get into a more focused state of mind. This is especially useful if you are about to compete and need to be both mentally and physically alert and ready for action.
Our Top Tips For Warming Up
So now you understand the benefits of warming up before running or exercising, what about any top tips we might have to help you be more productive? Of course, the type of workouts you carry out will vary in terms of intensity and duration, so you need to tailor your warm-up accordingly. If you’re hitting the gym for a 30-minute weights session, the preparation you need to go through is different to if you were about to compete in a Triathlon for example.
We’ve compiled some general guidelines on how to make that warm-up effective so that it suits your needs.
Keep It Short And Simple
There’s no need to go overboard. Up to ten minutes is perfectly adequate, and you should stick to something that’s low intensity initially to prepare your body. A moderately based session on the static bike or a brisk walk on the treadmill should do the trick. Another great piece of equipment is the Cross Trainer, which activates all your muscle groups without any impact.
Try And Tailor Your Warm-Up To Match Your Main Workout
If you’re going for a run, then warm up on the treadmill first. If you’re going to be lifting weight, then make sure that you mobilize your muscles and get your joints moving with exercises like shoulder rolls and knee lifts. For activities that require less movement, such as Pilates and Yoga, a warm-up might include roll downs, pelvic tilts and cat and cow stretches to mobiles the spine. The point is to start gently so that your body is prepared for the increase in intensity to follow.
Static Stretches Are To Be Avoided
You should avoid prolonged, and stationery static stretches when your body is still cold. That’s why these stretches are performed at the end of your workout out when your body is warm, and your muscles are more pliable. Dynamic stretching, which involves continuous movement through a range of isolated motions is an excellent idea. Large and continuous circling of your arms in both directions, kicking your legs up in front of you, running with high knees on the spot and opening out of the hip flexors. These kind of dynamic stretching movements are all appropriate to add to your warm-up routine.
Finally, Get Yourself Focused And Mentally Prepared For What’s To Come
Visualization is a standard tool used in lots of disciplines, especially by competitive athletes before a big race or competition. Picture yourself crossing the fish line victorious. If you have a new personal best that you’re trying to beat today, imagine yourself smashing that goal. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and prepare yourself for success.
With all those factors in mind, you’re now ready for the main event! Warm-ups are very much an individual thing and can be tailored entirely to suit your fitness and workout goals. Try warming in a variety of different ways to find out what’s best for you, your body, and your mind. Just don’t be tempted to skip warming up, especially if you want to remain injury-free.