The Importance of Warming Up

Imagine getting ready for a 10K… new shoes, weeks of training, an air-tight exercise routine, high-quality snacks… you’ve got it all planned out. The big day finally arrives and you hop in the car to get into the fray. Excitement builds and you’ve got your eye on the prize. In your excitement, though, you forget the golden rule – the one thing you’ve been doing day in and day out for the past half year… you forget to warm up. 10 minutes of solid running and something in your leg gives way, you’re knee seems to cramp, your back compensates, and then the unthinkable happens: you’re sitting on the pavement, hand in the small of your back, looking at the dust left behind by those still in the race.
And what are you thinking while you sit there? Yup… “I should have warmed up.” 

Yes, that is pretty much the way it works. If you are an active person, then you’ll know how imperative a good warm-up routine is prior to any form of exercise. And even if you aren’t necessarily an athlete, you’ll remember how your high-school gym teacher made you do ring laps before any match, tight? Warming up isn’t just to get you focused; rather, it affects the quality of your pending workout and makes sure that you stave of potential injuries which you may experience during it. In this post, then, we look at why warming up is so crucial, what happens if you don’t warm up, and a few common mistakes people make when they do warm up. Ready?

Getting your body ready for a workout is one of the best things you can do… for many reasons.  Firstly, a good warm up routine helps prepare your body for the exercise to come, whether that be swimming, running, cycling, boxing, or even ice skating. Warming up helps deliver oxygen to the muscles, thereby helping them grow stronger, have a larger energy output, and maintain endurance. Furthermore, warming up increases muscle flexibility and suppleness – this means that muscles are more efficient during the workout.

In addition to upping the productivity of your workouts, warming up also safeguards you against injury during and after them. It can do so in a number of ways. The first of these is by increasing body temperature. Doing so decreases the chance of injury. What’s more, warming up also prepares your heart for the upcoming strain. In other words, the time spent warming up means that the cardiovascular system is given enough time to adjust, thereby avoiding injury or damage. Lastly, blood flow is increased, thus delivering not only oxygen to muscles, but also invaluable nutrients, fatty acids, and glucose… this means more energy, greater results, and less fatigue post-workout.  It also means less stiffness and pain after exercise.

So, you see, warming up really is key to a successful, safe workout. But, what happens when you fail to warm up? Apart from being sorely disappointed in some cases as a result of injury, it may also mean a quick end to your fitness journey, longer recovery times post-workout, and a less productive session than you may have had if you did warm up. The bottom line? Warm ups prevent pain. In actual fact, warming up could mean the difference between a mediocre, damaging workout, or a productive, safe, strong one.

The truth is, though, some people do warm up, but don’t really reap any of the benefits. Why? In all honesty, they’re just not doing it correctly. Here are a few common mistakes people make during warm ups:

  • Doing it too quickly and without proper knowledge of what needs to be done.
  • Only warming up one or two parts of the body, not the body as a whole.
  • Not incorporating stretching.
  • Not following up with a cool down at the end of the workout.

The important thing to remember when you approach a warm up is to focus on all parts of the body, even though you may only be focusing on working your leg or arm muscles during the actual exercise. Why? Because the muscles of the body work in unison – failing to warm up the entire body could result in injury to areas despite them not being focused on.

Also, be mindful of the fact that a good warm up takes a bit of time – be sure to spend enough time focusing on all the part of the body – don’t rush. Give your muscles due time and attention in order to reap all of the benefits.

For a good warm up to work, you need to incorporate cardiovascular elements, stretching, and resistance training. No, I don’t mean doing a work out before your actual workout, but you do need to get the muscles warm, flexible, and oxygenated – doing all three exercise types means you will have covered your bases adequately.

And yet, despite advice it is not always easy to know what to do during warm ups; not all of us are athletes or daily gym goers. We understand that. And that’s why we invite you to contact one of our dedicated, hands-on physical therapists. Are you surprised that physical therapy could help? Well, physical therapy isn’t just about eradicating pain and treating injuries – it’s also about the prevention of pain. And for us, a good warm up routine paves the way for exactly that. With physical therapy, you’ll receive the knowledge and tools to execute a productive, effective, safe warm up routine, thereby safeguarding yourself against risk and ensuring that you’re able to maximize your workout potential. Who wouldn’t want that? Better results, less risk, and a whole lot more to look forward to in your training routine.

So, there you have it. You now know the importance of a good warm up routine. But, if you have doubts as to where to start, or you have been injured during exercise that lacked a thorough warm up routine, then we would love to help. Call us today for invaluable advice about warming up and how to maximize your training – we can’t wait to hear from you.


Alison McLean

"I help the Entrepreneur reduce stress and live a more fulfilled and balanced life."