Exploring Warm Up

A Warm Up is an essential but often undervalued activity that prepares your body for exercise. A warm up bridges the gap from rest to activity. It mobilizes your joints, prepares your muscles and revs your metabolism.

There are two groups of people within the world of active citizens. There are those who never warm up before exercising and those who always warm up before each workout. Which group are you in and why? When gym-goers were asked about the importance of a warm up, older people agreed a warm up before exercise was important while younger people were more inclined to dismiss the importance of a warm up. Athletes are more likely to warm up prior to working out, having developed the habit from a young age. The world of contemporary media is full of examples of individuals and teams going through elaborate warm up practises, generally geared towards their sport. This media attention goes a long way in convincing exercisers to treat the warm up as seriously as a workout, both inexorably linked through necessity.

There are a hundred opinions on what a constitutes a warm up. While all warm up activities generally help you prepare for exercise, different structures within the body benefit from warm up activities directly at them specifically.

For the purposes of this article, let’s consider how a warm up effects three systems: your cardiovascular system, your joints and your muscles. We’ll see how a warm up can be tailored so that all three systems each receive the maximum of warm up attention. We’ll also see how a warm up can be expedited without losing quality.


Walk to rev metabolism

10 minutes of brisk walking is a great way to warm up systemically for your workout, raising your core temperature


Swing to mobilize joints

While you're walking, swing your arms gently to mobilize your shoulder joints; add a bit of trunk rotation for the spine


Stretch your muscles

After walking and mobilizing, spend some time stretching muscles like quads, hamstrings, and calfs

Ready to go deep into what a warm up consists of?

1. A warm up starts with gentle cardio like walking

Including some kind of cardiovascular-style warm up is an important place to start every workout. In the very least, a warm up should begin with about 10 minutes of gentle “cardio activity” like walking. Walking will raise your body core temperature, heart rate, and generally primes all the body’s energy systems systems for activity. If your workout involves visiting the WCFP, well, you’re in luck as walking to the fitness park satisfies the cardio portion of your warm up. If you live very close, less than a 10 minute walk, then you’ll want to extend your walk around the scenic periphery of Windermere Secondary School. Perhaps one of the nicest view points in this part of the city is near Windermere Street and 26th Avenue where the mountains and skyline are front and centre. This is a great place to stop for a moment to enjoy the view give some thought to the second phase of a warm up, mobilizing your joints.

2. A warm up includes mobilizing your joints

Walking to begin your warm up goes a long way in mobilizing your joints and surrounding structures like ligaments and tendons. A 10 minute walk mobilizes the joints linking the vertebrae of the lumbar spine, the fibrous ligaments binding the sacrum, the spheroid hips joints, the complex joints of the knees and ankles, and the myriad of small joints in the foot. Further up the body, walking includes an arm swing to some degree and thus the shoulders become engaged. Build on this by exaggerating your arm swing while you walk. If, by now, you’ve stopped to enjoy the view, gird your stance by bending your knees slightly, then allow your spine to rotate gently as you slowly swing your outstretched arms to the left and to the right at shoulder height, back and forth for 20 seconds or so, helicopter-style. While you’re at it, and only if it’s comfortable to perform, begin to rotate your arms vertically up and over your head, ferris wheel-style, together, or one at a time for another 10-15 seconds. Get your elbows and wrists involved. Open and close your elbows and flap your fingers around as your swing your hands. These movements are merely suggestions to get you thinking. Personalize the joint mobilization part of your warm up anyway you want, paying attention to what feels comfortable and right and avoiding movements that may cause discomfort.

3. Should stretching be included in your warm up?

While gentle cardio and joint mobilizing actions are considered essential features of a complete warm up, stretching is not considered fundamental. While numerous studies of university sports teams have concluded a thorough warm up of cardio and joint mobilizing protects against injury, the same is not true for stretching. Getting your muscles moving is a goal when performing a warm up while working on increasing a muscle’s range of motion is a not an immediate goal of a warm up. Indeed, stretching where required to increase a muscle group’s range of motion and to improve muscle function is a component of a balanced fitness program, and time should be set aside within the context of your fitness program for stretching, specifically targeted or general.

The main ideas from this article are…

  • Warm up prepares you for exercise:
    A 10 minute warm up of gentle cardiovascular exercise like walking with arm swinging revs your metabolism, mobilizes your joints, and generally prepares your body for any workout.
  • Warm up protects you from injury:
    Studies indicate that if you warm up before you commit your muscles, joints and cardio system to a workout of any intensity, you will reduce the risk of injury.
  • Warm up is specific:
    Start by walking or some other gentle cardio activity, progress to mobilizing your major joints, and then optionally include stretching for those muscles you find are prone to tightness.

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