Always warm-up

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I remember back in grade school, as do many of you, when our gym teacher would make us stretch before all else.  Not to say that stretching before a workout is a bad thing but stretching cold muscles, tendons and ligaments can actually do more harm than good if we haven’t properly warmed up beforehand.  Even before stretching we want to keep in mind that our” insides” are not ready to go.  Despite our brains telling us otherwise from our hard day at the office, don’t rush your workout!  Take some time, get your heart rate up and get the blood flowing BEFORE your workout.   

“Take some time, get your heart rate up and get the blood flowing BEFORE your workout!”
All the way from the professional athlete to the weekend warrior, it’s imperative that we implement some type of regular warm-up and cool down during training days.  A proper warm up will increase the blood flow to the working muscles which in turn decreases muscle stiffness, reduces your risk of injury and will improve overall performance.  Don’t forget about the physiological and psychological preparation that a warm up brings to the table as well.  Let’s take a look at all the benefits that a proper warm up has on the body before exercise.
Increased Body Temperature:   An increase of body temperature reduces the risk of strains and pulls within our deep tissues, i.e. tendons, ligaments and fascia tissues and also aids in your muscle’s maximum range of motion.

Increased Muscle Temperature:  During your warm up, the temperatures within our muscles increase.   A warmed muscle both contracts more forcefully and relaxes more quickly aiding in both speed and strength of the muscle.  Safety first; you’re far less likely to overstretch or pull a warm muscle.

Mental Preparation:  A proper warm-up also mentally prepares you for an event by clearing the mind while increasing your focus.  Mentally meditative, a proper warm up can also make you more relaxed leaving you better able to focus on the task at hand.
To avoid injury, the best time to stretch is now, AFTER the muscle has an increase in temperature and blood flow.  Stretching a cold muscle can increase the risk of injury from pulls and tears.  Make sure your warm up begins gradually, and uses the muscles that will be stressed during exercise.  If you are training for a specific sport or exercise, try a “related warm up.”  The related warm up uses the specific skills of the sport prior to exercise.  For runners, the idea is to jog a while and add a few sprints into the routine to engage all the muscle fibers before intense sprinting or long distance running.  Keep in mind that the perfect warm up varies from person to person.  I prefer my clients to warm up for at least 5 – 10 minutes or until their heart rate reaches 60% of their maximum heart rate, (see “Getting Back To Basics!”) for heart rate formulas what works best for you.  Below are but a few common warm ups that you can implement into your training routine! 

Walking:  Whether you’re outside or on the treadmill, walking at a brisk pace is still one of the best ways to warm the body up with the least risk of injury.  *never hold on to the sides of treadmill when walking at an incline or running*

Jumping Jacks:  Gotta love old fashioned jumping jacks!  Who would have thought something so simple would be so effective at getting the heart rate up and warming the body.  Jumping jacks gets the whole body moving in a relatively short amount of time.