Starting with a warm up is key to a healthy, successful workout circa June 7-13, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
Congratulations! Making it to the gym is the first mental obstacle to overcome when beginning an exercise program. Now what? Focusing on what our body needs to prepare us physically for the work-out we are about to begin comes next: the warm up.
Many people walk into the gym and head straight for the weights without a proper warm up. I've also witnessed people jumping onto their favorite cardio machine and hitting start right away. Before hitting start, some will perform a few static stretches such as standing toe touches or quad stretches. But note this - stretching before a workout is not a warm up! Stretching cold muscles could cause injuries and can be painful.
Warming up is a low-level activity performed before a workout. Not only does it prepare one-self mentally, it also prepares the body for a more intense activity by: increasing body temperature, warming the muscles, improving oxygen supply and increasing blood flow. Warming up allows the heart rate to increase at a slow pace. Without it, heart rate will rise too quickly.
When warming up for weight training, I recommend beginning with at least five minutes of light cardio on the treadmill followed by a specific exercise with a few sets of lighter weights for the body part you're training that day. Then, switch to heavier weights.
When warming up for my cardio workout or high-intensity interval training with my group of clients, I like to improve performance and physical exertion by beginning with a brisk walk or easy jog for a few minutes followed by dynamic stretching, which simply means stretching while moving, all the while targeting the muscles that will be used later on.
There are many debates over stretching before or after your workout, dynamic stretching or static stretching. I personally feel dynamic stretches help improve my range of motion and flexibility due to the constant movement. These moves allow the body temperature to remain warm, whereas static stretching will drop the body's temperature. A few examples of the dynamic stretches I perform are walking lunges, Frankenstein marches, quad walks, knee hugs, arms circles and back strokes.
We all want to decrease injury and perform better. With that in mind, a proper warm up is necessary for a successful workout. Be sure to allow time for the warm up - it only takes five to 10 minutes and can protect against injuries that will delay staying physically fit.
Duration and intensity of the warm up will differ from person to person depending the goals set that day.