Sometimes it can take a lot of motivation to muster up the ability to head into the gym, or hit the pavement around the block. Often, we’re all guilty of just “getting stuck into it”, without really thinking about how we should prepare for a solid session.
Warming up and cooling down is actually just as important as the exercise program itself, so it pays to know what kind of attention to give you body during this process.
If you’re someone who tends to skip this step, you’re not alone, and it’s not too late to make use of an effective warm-up routine.
Why is warming up so important?
When you exercise, your body has to go through several adjustments and fluctuations. All of this can take a toll, so you need to prepare yourself for the ability to adapt and keep up. For example:
- Your heart rate will increase
- You will breath faster
- Blood flow will increase to your muscles
- Energy-release reactions to your muscles will start to trigger.
None of this happens instantly, but they need a few minutes to reach their peak level. So, warming up effectively allows your body to gradually hit each of these, causing less stress on yourself overall. Without this, you’re not equipping you and your body with the ability to meet higher demands, and may even increase the risk of injury or fatigue.
Just as we’ve said above, there are plenty of reasons why it’s essential to prepare your body before you jump into an intensive workout. Failing to do so means you’re scratching out some of the most vital parts of conditioning and preparation.
Choosing to cut corners and ditch the warm-up (or even cool down) means you may:
- Not prepare your muscles for recovery after the fact
- Unable to efficiently prepare yourself mentally to the best of your ability
- Potential to cause unnecessary stress and strain on your muscles – particularly your heart
- Inability to prime the pathways between your nerves and muscles to be fully ready for a good workout.
- Unable to increase enough blood flow into the muscle groups, which is vital for delivering oxygen and essential nutrients.
A few handy ways to warm up
For a general session: Begin with five minutes of low-intensity physical activity. This can be walking, jogging or cycling. Use your arms to swing or make controlled circular movements, to really make use of your upper body.
For sports or before a game: Focus on performing the typical exercise you’ll be doing during the game, but at a lower intensity. For example, if you’re going to be participating in a footy game, try jogging slowly and intensify the pace.
If it’s cricket, test a few minutes of easy catching, focusing on the primary movements that will be used in the upcoming match.
The bottom line
Overall, while it’s easy to forget to stretch before you head out for a big run, it’s still an integral part of your overall exercise program. Choosing to cut this out of your routine can cause unnecessary stress and fatigue on your body, not to mention it allows for the potential of injury.
So next time you head into the gym, allow yourself at least five to ten minutes to prepare your body and prime your mind. You’ll thank yourself later.