Published on July 4th, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Athletic Science: Warming Up
Training without a proper warm up is like going to a party wearing nothing other than your underpants. You are extremely unprepared and vulnerable. Other people will outperform you easily and you will lag behind, trying to gain what the others did beforehand during warm ups. There are very few ways to actually prevent injuries during training and warming up properly before an exercise session in one of them that has been proven to work beyond any shade of doubt. But what really is a warm up? Usually you just see some people running aimlessly around or stretching a bit, but are those activities really enough? What do you gain from warming up? These and plenty more question will be answered with simple facts in this article.
What is a good warm up?
A warm up is exactly that, a very light exercise that aims to warm up your muscles, raising your body temperature and dilating your blood vessels. When the body is warmer, muscles can twitch faster and dilated blood vessels help more oxygen reach those muscles, which means you get improved aerobic activity. When muscles work aerobically you simply last longer, because anaerobic activity causes lactic acid to form in the muscles, making them stiff and painful. The longer you avoid anaerobic activity the longer you can perform at the best of your ability.
Warming up your muscles and body helps your joints to be able to make wider movements without injuring your tendons and muscles. This makes warming up properly one of the few real ways to prevent injuries during training and performing. An injury can halt the whole career of an athlete and cause a lot of everyday discomfort for anyone. Warming up properly can save many the pain and trouble of an injury, while also increasing their performance. Arguably there is no other method, illegal or legal, that can be as crucial to your athletic performance as a good warm up can be.
How to do a good warm up?
I add the word “good” to the above question, because most athletes and gym members do warm up, but the quality and quantity of the warm up is almost always deficient. A real warm up should last at the very least fifteen to twenty minutes. The amount of time needed to sufficiently warm up any specific muscle, depends on the muscle group the sport focuses on and on the task ahead. Extremely dynamic sports like gymnastics and sprinting need an equally extremely thorough warm up that firstly focuses on many muscles individually and on the body as a whole secondly. Light exercises like yoga and jogging need less thorough warm-ups that can be done with as little as a few minutes of brisk walking.
If the activity is aerobic, then the warm up must be more thorough the longer the session is supposed to last. A typical warm up is this:
- Begin with brisk walking that steadily turns into a very light jog. Do this for five to ten minutes with the minimum impact possible. This raises the body’s temperature steadily, to prevent shock.
- Do some light exercises simulating whatever is to follow, but with less impact and dynamism.
- Finally perform exercises or moves that will be done in the event up to 70% of your maximum performance.
If you do this correctly for about twenty minutes you will be prepared physically as well as psychologically for what is to come. I say psychologically, because being prepared mentally can make a big difference in your performance. Doing mock exercises and getting your body moving, without the pressure of performance, is good to get your mind in the right place. Whatever you did before going to your session or event, you can steadily remove your mind from while starting to focus on the task ahead in a practical manner. Doing moves you’ll repeat a lot in the next hours helps your neuron path ways fire faster, improving reflexes and coordination.
A good warm up is not just the preparation for something to come. It can spell the difference between a short and a long career. It can also make the difference between a great, focused training session and a sloppy unfulfilling one. Many think a thorough warm up is a loss of time. On the contrary, you lose more time if you enter a training session mentally and physically unprepared, as you can’t get out your maximum potential that way.
Warming up properly can save you a lot of pain, by preventing injuries, but can also offer a lot of pleasure by improving performance and making exercises feel easier than they are. You can only feel a real athlete’s joy when you allow your muscles to work in their warmed up optimal state.