A young version of myself use to jump right into working out, forgoing a good warm-up. Whether it be lifting that heavy weight, sparring in MMA or doing HIIT training, I would jump right in and go hard. The way I viewed it, a lion doesn’t warm-up to chase a gazelle and neither was I!
Unfortunately, this mentality eventually caught up to me. Today I have many nagging injuries because I failed to warm-up properly, if at all. I decided to write this article to hopefully save some of you pain, time and money (medical cost).
In the rest of this article, I will cover why and how (mentally) you should be warming-up before you begin either a workout or some sort of strenuous activity. Most fitness professionals universally agree that some sort of warm-up activity is beneficial for injury prevention and performance. “One important component of injury-free sports is the warm-up. A warm-up is part of every practice and every competition in every sport.” – Elyse Balbaugh (Mercy Health ). As for static stretching before the workout, the jury is still out. In fact, many fitness professionals think it might even put you at risk; “static stretching … It’s not proven to help prevent injury, curb muscle soreness after exercise, or improve your performance.”- Sonya Collins (WEBMD).
Benefits of a Warm-up:
- Raises body temperatures which will increase blood flow to the muscles.
- Lowers the chance of soft tissue injuries (tendons & ligaments).
- Raises temperature in the body and muscle which also increases the rate of energy production.
- Produces synovial fluid between joints which increases and reduces friction.
- Increases speed in nerve impulse conduction.
- Joints become more efficient. (They work better)
- Puts potentially dangerous stress on the heart. Warming up reduces the stress on the heart.
The benefits are pretty straight forward, and one can easily see the importance of doing the warm up. The mental approach however is little less straightforward. The acronym I use is FOE which stands for Focus, Observe and Evaluate.
- Get fully engaged in the warm-up.
- It’s important that you put 100% of your attention towards the warm-up. During this time it is critical that you not talk to others in the gym class. Also, I highly advise putting your phone away along with any other distractions in your workout area.
- Are you doing the warm-ups in proper form?
- During the warm-up, it’s good to make sure you are using the proper technique. Are you using the correct muscles? Are you breathing correctly? Is your posture properly aligned?
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Typically in a warm up area or warm-up portion of a class, many people are distracted; talking, texting and even on the phone. This puts you at risk. It is important that you keep an eye on your surroundings and the people in your area!
- What are you feeling in your body?
- This is especially important for injury prevention. Sometimes we are so focused on our goals for the workout, we fail to take notice on how our body is feeling. Do your best to observe your body.
- Is your mind and body connected?
- Is something else on your mind, if so why? Try to bring back a wandering mind to your workout. Keep reminding yourself as to why you are working out in the first place; getting faster, weight management, de-stressing, etc…
- Do you need to go easier or modify activities? If you’re not at your best, make the changes to the workout to accommodate. If you are in a fitness class it is important that you let the instructor know that you are not feeling your best. Most likely they will make modifications to your workout.
- Should you continue the workout? If you are feeling really off, maybe take the day off or switch your workout completely. It is always better to stop before it is too late. Live to train another day!
I hope you will use this article as a reminder and a reference, to mentally preparing yourself for your warm-up. Lastly, you should view the warm-up as the beginning of the workout and not as the less important portion.
Sports training: Static vs. dynamic stretching – by Elyse Balbaugh, LAT, Mercy Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center; Sports training: Static vs. dynamic stretching
The Truth About Stretching: Find out the best ways to stretch and the best times to do it – by Sonya Collins https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/how-to-stretch#1