Wednesday Workout: The All Important But Often Neglected Warm Up

While an excellent way to let the world know you are on a roll at the beer pong table, it is an even better practice to implement before beginning any type of physical activity. Whether you are hitting the field with your team, working out in the gym, or going for a run, applying a warm up will help to prepare your body for whatever physical labor you throw at it. So what does a warm up do? Without regaling you with the science behind the important of warming up, let me offer you an example that was given to me several times while in school:
Try to picture your muscles as rubber bands – when warm it is very pliable, able to stretch and rebound back to their original shape. If you were to take that rubber band, place it in a freezer and then try to stretch it, it will break. In order to get that rubber band stretching again, you would have to warm it up in your hands first.
Although this is a VERY simplistic way of describing the muscles, it does do a fine job of illustrating my point. No matter what the exercise, a good warm up will help you achieve the maximum benefit of your workout while lowering the risk of injuries. There are many different ways to warm up (riding a stationary bike, elliptical, Jumping rope, dynamic warm up etc.), each with their own strengths. Although still under investigation by researchers as to which is best, it is generally agreed upon that any warm up is better than no warm up. So here are some tips to keep in mind when creating a warm up that fits you.

1. Start slow, then pick up the pace.

No matter what the warm up, it is important to start slow, letting your body acclimate to the exercise before picking up your pace. If your heart beat is rising and you are starting to sweat, than you are doing it right!

2. Gear your warm up towards your work out

If you are going for a run focus on warming up the muscles and joints involved by riding a stationary bike, jumping rope, or using the elliptical. If you are lifting weights, perhaps functional movements, that will stimulate the muscles you will be targeting in your work out, is the way to go. This does not mean neglect the rest of your body. Any good warm up incorporates the body as a whole.

3. Mix and Match

Don’t be afraid to use just one method to warm up. If you feel that riding a stationary bike isn’t warming up your body enough, that’s fine. You can always switch to another machine (such as one that will target your upper body) or perform some functional exercise.
If you have limited means or no access to a gym, here are some functional movements you can do in order to prepare your body for exercise.

Remember this is just a warm up to prepare for the real work out. While elevating your heart rate is the goal, the intensity of your warm up should reflect the intensity of your work out. It is typically suggested for a warm up to at least be 10min, but most certainly can and should be increased depending on the type of work out or activity. As always, know yourself, know what you wish to achieve, and then plan your work out from there. 

With my warmest wishes, get out there and warm up your workout.

Story & images by fitness instructor Mike Habersaat

Now that you’re ready to go, check out our favorite Wednesday Workouts.

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