Have you ever wondered why the first kilometre of your run is so hard? It feels as though you have never run before, and you are unlikely to make it to the next corner without collapsing in a heap. It’s the same story if you tear into a tennis match or gallop straight into a game of golf. Your mind may be ready to go, but your body isn’t, you need to spend some time properly warming up. The good news is that spending a few minutes warming up before your main exercise session, both reduces your chance of injury and increases your overall performance!
Why do we need to warm up before exercise?
Warming up, by doing some very gentle exercises, prepares your cardiovascular system for the physical exertions ahead. It increases the flow of blood to your muscle groups, which in turn increases muscle temperature. This is good because the warmer your muscles, the warmer your blood and the more haemoglobin releases oxygen into your bloodstream. Warmer muscles and more oxygen mean increased endurance and a better performance.
Warm muscles also contract and relax more easily, reducing the risk of overstretching, straining, or indeed tearing a muscle. The range of motion increases too, vital for the performance in many sports.
Warm up everything!
It is too easy to focus just on the main muscle groups used for your sport and forget the rest. Running for example, is about far more than just your legs! Warming up your glutes, abdominal muscles, arms and even your neck, will reap dividends.
The easiest way to warm up is to spend 5 to 10 minutes doing the movements of the main exercise session, but at a slower pace and lower intensity. This is known as a dynamic warm up. During this session, you can move other muscle groups as well, swinging your arms or lifting your knees for example. Try to include all muscle groups. Clenching and relaxing your glute muscles, tensing and relaxing your abdominals, will help signal that they need to get ready for action. A good warm up will increase your heart rate slightly and may induce mild sweating, but it should not cause fatigue or tiredness.
3 easy warm up exercises
The good news is, warming up is easy to do and doesn’t take long. Here are three simple exercises you can do anywhere and will help get you ready to rumble. You can adapt the number of repetitions to suit your physical ability. If you notice that part of your body feels stiff when you start your main exercising session, make a note, and look for a suitable warm-up exercise for next time.
Squats are great for warming up your lower body, including hamstrings, quads and glutes. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and turn your toes to face forward or slightly out. Keeping your back straight, slowly lower your hips until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold the pose for a few seconds and then stand back up. Repeat 10-12 times.
Push-ups are really good for warming your upper body and core. Everyone knows how to do a push-up, the important thing is to keep your back straight, using your glutes and abdominal muscles to help support your spine. Do the push-ups slowly, again 10-12 reps should do it, we are only warming up. If you find push-ups too hard, keep your knees on the ground, to reduce the weight your arms are lifting.
3. Knee lifts
Knee lifts are an often-overlooked warm up exercise that anyone can do. Stand tall and put a little tension in your abs and glutes. Keeping your back straight, raise your left knee and touch it with your right hand, then go back to the starting position. Repeat using your right knee and left hand. Keeping a slight bend in the supporting leg will help with balance. Repeat 10-12 times.
Warming up – good for you and your performance
We hope you can see why warming up is so important to your performance and the enjoyment of your exercise session or sport. Warming down after the exercise is just as important too.
Remember, warming up is all about taking it slowly and gently, easing your muscles into the exercise ahead. Your body will thank you for it and that first kilometre will never have felt easier! Give it a try next time, you will be amazed at the results.