The weather is cooling down. We are all taking out our fall clothes and preparing for the onslaught of snow coming our way this winter. While it is unlikely that any of us will be forgetting our jackets as we head out the door every morning, it may be a lot easier for us to forget the importance of warming up before we exercise—here are three reasons to help us always remember!
1. Injury PreventionAny form of physical activity whether light, moderate, or high intensity, is going to raise your heart rate and cause an increase in blood flow. It is of vital importance to gradually raise both prior to engaging in full-blown exercise, especially if training or competing at a level of high intensity.It is very dangerous to delve head-on into a physically demanding activity from a resting heart rate and a cool body temperature. If not given ample time to adjust to the stress of the activity, your joints, muscles, and ligaments are at a much greater risk of injury.By engaging in a light warm-up and gradually raising your heart rate and blood flow, you are giving your body the opportunity to adjust to the impending physical stress of exercise, and greatly reducing the risk of straining your muscles and joints.Depending on your routine, engaging in anywhere from five to fifteen minutes of a light warm up should always be the first part of your exercise regimen. Walking or light jogging, deep stretching, jumping rope, performing calisthenics (jumping jacks, body-weight squats, push-ups, etc.), sport-specific drilling, and light-weight resistance training are all great ways to prepare your body for a demanding workout.2. Performance EnhancementAside from the benefit of injury prevention, warming up greatly increases your body’s ability to perform at its physical best.Sometimes at the start of a cardiovascular exercise, fatigue or shortness of breath can set in. Even physically fit individuals and trained athletes can at times be “slow starters” physically. Almost anyone that has gone on a run in their life has experienced what is called a “second wind.”A second wind occurs when an individual is able to push past this initial fatigue, and find a fresh sense of energy and endurance. By warming up, you can get out this initial adjustment, and not jeopardize your primary exercise or activity. Catching this “second wind” during a warm up is of particular importance when competing—the last thing you want is to be settling in or “catching your second wind” when you are already on the field, court, or in the ring.In relation to enhancing the performance of strength training, a proper warm-up will always allow you to lift heavier weight and put up more repetitions. By giving your body the time to get blood flowing to the muscles utilized in your primary lifts, you will prevent fatigue from setting in, and have much greater localized strength output. If you take several minutes to warm up you will be able to maximize your potential, and put up the weight and repetitions imperative to muscle growth.3. Mental Focus and Positive VisualizationNow that we have gone over the physical advantages of warming up, let’s consider the mental.In order to execute any physical movement to the best of your ability, you must be mentally focused. Stress, anxiety, daily responsibilities, and a multitude of other distractions can and will hinder your ability to perform your best if you allow them to. If you are not one hundred percent focused on the task at hand, you will not perform it at your best. By warming up, you are giving yourself several minutes to eliminate any negative energy or counterproductive concerns, and get yourself focused on performing in the moment.As you are warming up think about your goals for the day and what you wish to accomplish in that particular workout, competition, or activity. Positive visualization is an incredible asset to performance. Visualize yourself performing at the best of your ability, and with time you will be able to do so.Work hard and stay warm!