Hands up if you regularly skip your warmup when you work out? Be honest now, after all, you’re not the only one.
Warming up is an important part of any workout and offers a huge range of benefits that include reducing your risk of injury, improving your performance and helping with recovery.
So, what is a warmup and why is it important?
The purpose of a warmup is to get your body ready to workout by gradually increasing your internal body heat. Some people might think it’s a waste of time but a thorough warm up raises your heart rate and increases the blood flow to your muscles, easing any tightness as well as mobilising your joints so they’re able to move freely through as full a range of movement as possible.
Some of the benefits of going through the warmup process include:
1. Reducing the chance of injury
If executed properly, a warmup can actually reduce the risk of injury from exercise by warming up your muscles and tendons so they become more elastic, meaning they’ll be able to cope with the stress put on them while you’re smashing out burpees and squat jumps.
2. Feeling more energised
When you warmup you activate different energy pathways, getting yourself ready for the actual exercise. You activate neural mechanisms for good performance, meaning that warming up properly prepares your body’s nervous systems and energy systems for what’s about to come.
3. Feeling more focused
Doing a warmup also gives you time to mentally process what you’re about to do for your workout. This helps you switch off from all the other things going on and frees space in your head so you can focus on the workout.
There are different types of warmups depending on your activity, for example, warming up for something like running requires a more general approach than something like getting ready to do a HIIT workout. But the main thing to remember when planning your warm up is to think about what exercises feature in your workout so you can select movements for the specific muscle groups you’ll be targeting.
A good structure for a warm up is to start with light intensity aerobic activity, followed by dynamic stretching and some sport-specific dynamic activities, which are movements similar to the things you’re likely to do in the actual workout.
4. So, how do I know when I’m warmed up?
Spotting when you’re fully warmed up is not quite as simple as just feeling warm, after all, like with so many areas of fitness, there are no general guidelines that are hard and fast indicators of when you’re ready to exercise, it is very much dependent on the individual.
That being said, one of the signs that you’re warmed up is that your breathing frequency has reached a steady state (you’re not panting) and breathing feels easy (no compressive feeling in your chest).
5. What’s the difference between warming up and cooling down?
In the same way that a warmup is important to prevent injury, the cool down is too.
A cool down typically involves 5-10 minutes of gentle cardio that gradually decreases in intensity (the reverse of a warmup), followed by some static stretches to relax your body back to its pre-exercise state. Gradually lowering the intensity with a cool down is much better for your body than just ending your workout suddenly.
Although finding the extra time to warm up and cool down might seem like a lot of extra work, it’s essential if you want to get the most from your training while looking after your body.