I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again,
I’m not talking about doing little arm stretches across the chest or touching your toes.
I mean a full-on, designated warm-up routine.
I understand we’re all eager to start our workout. Whether that be lifting weights or sprinting on the track, all we care about are the meat & potatoes — the actual workout itself.
Thus, we tend to ignore the veggies — the warm-up preceding the workout.
But if there’s one common agreement among vegetables, it’s that we know they are essential for good health, yet we tend to ignore them.
The same applies to our warm-up. Sure, we can choose to not do it, but our refusal to do so will eventually catch up and grab us when we least expect it.
So when I see athletes — particularly young folks — who are constantly burdened with chronic knee pain, shin splints, or something of that nature while exercising, I get frustrated knowing that a bulk of those nuisances could have been prevented by a decent warm-up.
Here’s the thing: Our body needs to be primed before we suddenly go full-swing on intensity. Not doing so is kinda like microwaving a cup of ramen noodles before adding water. It’s a recipe for disaster (Trust me, I’ve done this before -_-).
I know, I know. The idea of warming up sounds so primitive. But it’s an investment worth spending our time and effort on that will pay off in the long run.
It’s a Crime to Not Take the Time!
If you or somebody you know always prefers to half-ass or ignore a warm-up entirely, consider this one question:
Would you rather spend an extra 10 minutes prepping your muscles, or an extra 10 weeks resting and icing your injured body?
You’d be surprised by how many athletes choose the latter. Call it laziness, ignorance, or pure ego (“Pssh I’m not gonna get hurt, it hasn’t happened before and it won’t happen now”).
The fact of the matter is, nobody is safe from injuries. They’re an inevitable part of sports, of physical activity. Regardless, it’s a trade-off we’re willing to take given the indisputable value of exercise for our mental and physical well-being.
Although the risk for injury is inevitable, it doesn’t mean that we should deny the reduction in injury risk provided by a solid warm-up regimen. Not to mention, warming up primes our muscles to enable peak performance, which is ultimately the ideal for any athlete
It feels silly that I have to add a science-backed study to prove the importance of a warm-up because I’d figure it be a common-sense idea to prepare our bodies and mind for the workout ahead. Sadly, it’s not.
Do It For You
I’m a sprinter who runs track & field at my community college, and it’s a great experience. Team practices go pretty smoothly, for the most part.
The only issue is that sometimes I and my teammates don’t warm-up as well as we should have.
Here’s the deal, our team trains as a team, thus we have a leader — which varies day to day — to lead the warm-up.
Sometimes the team leader doesn’t feel like completing the whole routine. Whether it’s due to laziness or ego, it doesn’t matter. It puts all of us at a disadvantage because if the team leader doesn’t do certain stretches, we don’t either.
Plus, it’s not like we have a coach to babysit us through our warm-up every day, we’re expected to complete it thoroughly.
The reason I bring this up is that it’s important to realize that warming is for YOUR benefit.
Just because you have a gym buddy, teammate, or know someone who performs “just fine” with a crappy to a non-existent warm-up routine doesn’t mean that you should follow their misguided footsteps.
Who knows, their “just fine” performance can probably be “just GREAT” given they took the effort to properly prepare for their workout.
The message here is to not become dissuaded to complete a warm-up routine. If your buddy doesn’t want to do it, that’s THEIR choice, not YOURS.
The Warm-Up Alone Doesn’t Warm You Up
Once we establish a proper warm-up routine, there’s one cue that we need to keep in mind:
Don’t go through the motions!
Be intentional with every movement and dynamic stretch because they’re meant to get our muscles ready for the stress that’s placed upon it.
For instance, if we’re performing a walking hamstring sweep, we want to feel a stretch in our hamstring. But if we’re nonchalantly bending the lower back and not feeling the hamstring stretch, it’s useless. Perform each movement with purpose.
Similar to driving, we purposefully turn the steering wheel left, right, or back to the center. We’re being intentional with every movement so that we can get to our destination. If we weren’t, we’d end up at our local Starbucks instead of our intended destination (Unless it was Starbucks).
The same applies to warming up. Be intentional with every movement, don’t just go through the motions.
Let the Workout Begin!
After our warm-up routine, we should be feeling locked and loaded to channel our inner-Kobe (or anyone you idolize) and dominate the workout. If you don’t think you’re following a well-thought-out regimen, consider googling “Dynamic stretching routine for (insert sport/activity).”
In the end, all we are focused on is our improvement and performing at our best capability. Doing so requires consistent practice, only if we’re put forth our best effort. Our best effort, day in and day out, is possible with a proper warm-up plan. Plain and simple.
Warming Up Isn’t Optional, It’s Optimal
Practice breeds improvement. Warming up primes practice.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again,