The dreaded “warm-up”. It’s the part we all want to skip in a workout. I know people sometimes sneak in five minutes late to a fitness class so they can avoid it, and we all make excuses on why we don’t need it. “I don’t have time to waste warming up”. “I rode my bike earlier today so I’m already warm”. “Warming up is boring”. “It’s hot outside” (yes, I’ve heard this one).
I have used some of those excuses myself, but I also know the importance of a good warm-up. Here are a few reasons getting yourself ready for a workout is important:
1) Injury prevention. When I was little, my mom made roll-out sugar cookies every year at Christmas. She kept the dough in the fridge and would take out just enough for one batch at a time. Have you ever tried rolling out chilled dough straight from the fridge or freezer? It seems like it won’t budge. But after a few minutes of rolling and turning and rolling and turning, the dough is warmed up just enough to be pliable and ends up in a perfect, flat shape for cookies. Your muscles are the same way. Think of muscles that have been sitting as cold. They aren’t ready to immediately go into a sprint and you could easily strain or tear a muscle by doing this. You need to get your blood flowing a little and get your muscles warm and ready for the activity to come.
2) Get into the zone. A good warm-up gets both your body and your mind into the zone for your workout. It might include music, a specific routine, or the same route on your walk/jog. I made a playlist when I was training for my half-marathon and it started with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” That song was my indicator that a run was coming and I better get ready. To this day I feel a need to start jogging when I hear that song.
3) Focus. Sometimes our brains need as much of a warm up as our bodies. When you workout, you should be able to focus on your body and leave your to-do lists and stresses behind for 30-60 minutes. A good warm-up lets you release negative or stressful thoughts and start to receive the endorphins that exercise creates. It gives you a chance to literally breathe in the good and breathe out the bad.
Your warm-up doesn’t have to follow any specific rules or be a specific length. I recommend 5-10 minutes of moderate intensity movement. The main thing is that you start to get your heart rate elevated and get the blood moving through your body. If you are wearing a jacket, you might feel you don’t need it anymore after your warm-up, but you shouldn’t be sweating through every layer of clothing you have on.
I created this warm-up to be appropriate for any activity you want to do, or to be a great workout on its own! I wanted something that wouldn’t bore me and that I felt was a workout while also being a great warm-up. This fills the bill. If you don’t have hand weights at home, feel free to use full water bottles or no weights at all. As always, check with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine.