Frozen pizza. A car on a winter morning. Your body before a workout. What do these three things have in common? Well, for starters, they all benefit from a good warm-up. Exercising while your muscles are tight or cold can result in less-than-optimal performance similar to a half-cooked pizza or an ice-cold steering wheel.
Next time you plan to hit the gym, plan a few extra minutes to prepare your body for exercise. By gradually raising the intensity of your activity level, you’ll increase blood flow to your muscles which preps them for the work ahead. Additionally, you’ll help prevent injury, prepare your mind and improve your performance.
A good warm-up should mimic the activity you’re getting ready to do, but you should perform movements at a lower intensity level. For example, walk quickly for a few minutes before beginning to jog. Warming up for strength training can involve going through the movements you’ll use during exercise, but without weights.
Active, or dynamic, stretching is another way to prep your muscles for exercise. This form of stretching involves movement such as arm circles, straight leg kicks or high knees. If you attend a sports’ game, this is the type of stretching you’ll likely see the athletes do as they warm up.
We’ve previously discussed why foam rolling is good for maintaining fitness and flexibility, but it’s also perfect for getting muscles ready to go. If you’re feeling a bit sore or stiff before working out, take a few minutes to loosen up the affected muscles with some foam rolling.
Remember to start with larger muscle groups and realize that a warm-up should do exactly as it says – warm you up – but should not leave you feeling fatigued. If you need help developing a warm-up plan, see a personal trainer. They can provide you with all you need to know to get started.