Confession time: I used to hate doing a warm up.
I thought it was a waste of time, I thought it was boring, I thought I was doing just fine with my workouts without it, thank you very much.
Well, Mother Nature has a funny way of showing us the error of our ways, and frankly, she’s not always nice about it.
I used to be plagued with minor injury after minor injury. An ankle problem here, IT band troubles there. Little fitness setbacks that really hampered my forward progress and frustrated the heck out of me.
Now, to be fair, there were actually a LOT of things I was doing wrong. (Wow, that doesn’t sound good, does it? But it’s true – my impatient and impulsive nature kept me away from several routines that I have since found that have made a world of difference in my success in running and fitness.) But one of the biggest mistakes I was making was skipping a warm up.
I know you’ve heard by now all the physical reasons why you should do a warm up before your workout:
- It loosens up stiff, cold muscles
- It gets your joints, tendons and ligaments ready for load bearing
- It brings up your heart rate gently, which is better for your cardiovascular system than a sudden start
- It helps prevent injuries and later muscle soreness
And, yes, these are all true and therefore excellent reasons to warm up, but none of these is the most important reason:
The warm up prepares your mind for the workout.
I slowly came around to doing a warm up before my workouts when I was studying to be a personal trainer – I mean, I couldn’t very well be instructing my clients to do warm ups if I wasn’t willing to do them myself now could I? Over the months that I studied, I developed a routine that worked for me. If you’ve watched very many of my workout videos, you’ve definitely seen at least the basic version of it – arm circles, arm crossers, high knees and booty kickers are my gold standard of warm up exercises, with the occasional addition of leg stretchers, squats, leg swings, toy soldiers and/or drinky birds.
I added this quick warm up to my daily fitness routine, and wouldn’t you know it? The injuries started coming fewer and farther between (the addition of regular strength training also contributed greatly to the reduction in my injury rate, but that’s a topic for another day), and now I can’t remember the last time I had to take time off from exercise to nurse something sore or nagging.
And while I am quite certain that my body has responded favorably to warming up, I firmly believe that my brain actually reaps the biggest benefit.
I don’t know about you, but my mind goes a million miles an hour from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. There’s always something rattling around in there, trying to distract me from whatever it is that I’m doing, but one of my sure-fire techniques to calm and quiet my thoughts is to do something very methodical and routine, like breathing rhythmically or counting.
Hmmm, wouldn’t you know it? A good warm up routine includes both of those activities, helping me focus my mind and get prepared for the task of exercising.
When I used to skip the warm up, sometimes it would take me half my workout or more to get into that state of zen and focus – long, precious minutes where I wasn’t thinking about good form or breathing properly, but was instead still stuck on that rude guy at the grocery store or trying to remember if I signed my kid’s permission slip that was due today. And that’s when injuries occur – when you’re not thinking about them. By giving your body and your mind a few minutes to ease into working out with a good warm up, you can shrug off the day’s thoughts and get ready for the tough work in front of you.
So, if you find yourself starting a workout with a cluttered mind, take a few minutes to enjoy a proper warm up. I’ve recorded a few that I really enjoy, and I’ve attached them here for you: My Before and After Running Routine, a Low Impact Cardio Warm Up (that could easily be a whole workout!) and a quick dynamic warm up for everyday workouts.
Cheers to your mental focus and injury-free workouts,
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