How to Warm Up Properly Before Working Out
They taught us in school the importance of the warmup. Did you listen? No, I didn't either. But man-oh-man is the warmup important. Not only to keep you from hurting yourself, but also to keep you from hurting yourself. This lesson is learned the hard way by some, and the excruciatingly hard way by others. Be smart, do your warmup!
Why is stretching and warming up so important? Well, you are going to reduce the tension in your muscles, increase the range of your motion, and thereby avoid the strains on your muscles and joints. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting back problems. You need to prepare your body for what is about to come.
Eat Food, be Healthy
Before you start your workout, it is important to be fed and hydrated. This doesn’t mean eating a double cheeseburger before you hit the gym. It means having something in your belly a few hours before, and nothing with too much sugar or grease, otherwise you will feel like a slug. It is smart to eat something light with a lot of energy, keeping you strong for your workout.
Some of the best foods you can eat before a workout are fruits (particularly bananas), nuts, yogurts, rice with chicken, and whole grain breads. These will keep you amped and full of energy throughout your workout.
Secondly, loosen up! This is critical. You want to “shake it out” before you begin any workout. Loosen your joints, your muscles, and get yourself properly relaxed. This will prevent you from straining and hurting yourself during the workout.
You can do this in a few ways. One of them is with a foam roller, which helps to work out some of the kinks before starting. You can do this by yourself and it only takes a few minutes, and afterwards you’ll feel much looser.
Don’t forget to hit your hamstrings, hips, quads, shoulders, lower back, and glutes. These are the key points that you want being limber before the workout starts.
Stretch It Out
Everyone knows about stretching. This is the most important thing to do before any workout. However, most people are not familiar with the different types of stretching. Touching your toes and waving your arms are two totally different things. In fact, you may be doing the wrong stretches.
Static Stretching: These are when you hold your muscle in place, like when you bend over to touch your toes, or when you fold your leg so that your heel touches your butt. It is best to reserve the static stretches until after the workout during the cooldown phase. Doing static stretches beforehand can make you more likely to injure yourself.
Dynamic Stretching: These are what you should do post workout. Dynamic stretches involve moving your muscles to loosen them. You see people doing this in the park in the morning, waving their arms in circles, holding onto a rail while they swing their legs. These are awesome at loosening you up and getting your blood flowing before the workout.
Heart Pumping, Blood Flowing
Before you start working out, it is highly recommended that you get your heartrate going. You want to prep your body, get your heart pumping in anticipation, and get your blood flowing through your veins and into your joints and muscles. Not only will this get you amped for what’s ahead, but it will also keep your heart strong.
This is as easy as doing plyometrics. Lightly jogging on the spot, doing some quick shadow boxing, a few jumping jacks, or a brisk walk around the gym will suffice. All these will pick up your heartrate and prepare your body. You may even want to consider riding your bicycle to the gym, as it is probably the best way to get your heart pumping.
Some other quick warmups are lifting without weights, doing breathing exercises, and some flash yoga.
To make the most out of your workout once it’s finished, it is a good idea to cool down and relax your body. Otherwise, you can completely ruin your entire workout. Finish off with a quick round of static stretches. Focus on the areas that you just finished stressing during the workout, especially your back and shoulders.
Many people believe that the post-stretch, or even stretching between bouts of exercise, can increase an athlete’s speed and power and drastically reduce the chance of an injury. This is because the prime time to stretch is when a person’s muscles are pliable and hot. So, either after a workout, after an exercise, or during yoga.
Another thing that stretching after your workout does is relax your mind and body, bringing your breathing and your heartrate down to a normal level. After you stretch, relax. Rehydrate with a drink of water, get a healthy bite to eat, and wind down. Relax, you’ve earned it!
When Not to Stretch
You don’t always need to stretch. If you have recently suffered from a bone fracture, from a strain or a sprain, or if you are having any issues with your range of motion, sit the stretching out. This is also true if you happen to be suffering from an infection with your bone or joint, or if you have osteoporosis.
As a side note, some experienced athletes choose not to stretch. If you are only beginning to exercise, you definitely want to shake out your long-dormant muscles. If you have been sitting on the couch for six weeks, limber up before you hit the weights or go for a run.
If you take anything away from this article, it should be that stretching is important. Stretching and warming up ensures that you can move all your joints and muscles without straining or overextending yourself, which is critical in getting the most out of your exercise routine.
Your second takeaway should be to do the right warmups. Get limber and loose. Don’t weaken your muscles by performing static stretches, as this can hamper your full ability when running, sprinting, or doing similar exercises.