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Getting primed: Warming up Before Your Workout

Save your body from injury, perform better and burn more calories by warming up.

Quick and dirty workouts are all the rage these days. It is becoming well known that it is the intensity of your workout that has an overall impact on your body shape and fitness levels rather than long hours on the cardio machines. More people are turning to short, intense workouts that last under 20 minutes with great results. What nobody talks about is the warm up.

Do you go to work without your coffee, tea or teeth brushed? Then why would you go to your

workout without preparing for it?

Warm ups do not have to be grueling, but they do have to prepare you mentally and physical for the task at hand. As an athlete, I know that how I treat my body in the first 10-20 minutes dictates how well I do over the next hour and a half. Over-gas in the warm up, and I fall flat 20 minutes into my actual workout. My joints move stiffly and I feel like my muscles are made of mud – I just run out of motivation. Under-do it and I have a hard time enjoying what I am actually doing. I just don’t reach that elevated space where I am ready and able of accomplish my task for the day.

Your warmup is just like getting ready for work. It IS getting ready for work. Get a routine down, pay attention to how your body changes over and get to know what you need in order to feel good and ready to smash your workout.

Here is the deal: Your muscles act like bungee cords and levers. What happens when you pull a bungee cord from the freezer and vigorously stretch it it? It snaps. There is no flexibility in the rubber. Warm it up and the thing stretches and becomes a useful tool. Think of your muscles in the same respect. Although a muscle or tendon tearing is very unlikely for the average gym goer, a strain, inflammation and a limited range of motion IS very likely.

Warmups increase enzymatic reactions in the muscle body as well as raise internal temperatures. This combination is optimal for performance. This becomes even more important when you are over that age of 25. In addition, gradually working your body into the physical state brings your brain along with it. It allows you to say ‘Ok, this is what I am doing and this is what it feels like. I am ready.’ This is the time that you give 60, 70, 80% effort. I love warm ups because I know it is the only time I can get away with doing pushups on my knees! Starting there makes you more prepared for the real thing.

How do I choose my warmup?

To pick the proper warm up, ask yourself a couple of questions. Being creative and taking pleasure in movement are the most important thing when you are starting a workout or training cycle. Look at movement type, movement location and movement duration.

What parts of my body will I be using?

Am I focusing on my upper body or lower body? Ten minutes on the treadmill is only slightly helpful when you plan to train push up or push press. Better to do push ups, crab crawling or rowing. Although the rowing machine works your whole body, I do not recommend it for leg day. Why? Because your legs never split (work separately) and the real tension is located in the arms. If you are just doing abdominal work, walking at an incline or running at a brisk pace for 10 minutes will do just fine. If you are getting fancy with crazy core work, incorporate some shoulder and hip movements.

How will I be using these parts of my body?

Is my workout very dynamic with lots of movement where the limbs move in many directions? Or is it fairly simple like running or cycling, just forward and backward like sit ups and lunges? Look at your workout. Mimic the workout in the warm up and slowly increase effort. A simple workout means a simple warm up. A very technical, advanced or a workout with lots of new moves requires some more thought. Be sure to include some spine, hip and shoulder rotation work for advanced workouts. Run, jump rope, cycle or row for a few minutes to get breathing, then do what you can to increase overall range or motion.

How long will I be moving?

Most people do not need a 10 minute warm up for a 3 minute bodyweight workout. And a 5 minute warm up followed by heavy hang cleans is also a bad idea. Follow this rule: Under 10 minute workout requires about a 5 minute warm up. 10-20 min workouts requires a 7-10 min warm up. 20 min and over requires a 10-20 min warm up.

Please note: You can never go wrong with a 10-15 min warmup. Start the first 4 min at 60% effort then kick it up a notch. Do this every 3-4 minutes until you are working at 85% effort and have broken a sweat, you cheeks are flushed and you would have to work at holding a conversation. You want to literally ‘hit the ground running’ at the beginning of your official workout. Systems are revved up and you are in GO mode.

Examples of effective and unconventional warmups:

- 30-40 Turkish Get Ups at a light/medium weight

- 10-12 min treadmill at a fast walk/easy run pace with 20-30 second bouts of grapevine, skipping, walking backwards and/or side stepping

- 4 rounds of 15 knee push ups, 20 meter bear crawl, 20 lunges, 10 squats, 10 Vups

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