We have all done it…started a workout without warming up first. I can’t quite understand why it’s difficult to remember to warm up…whether it’s because I underestimate the importance of preparing my body for exercise or I just want to dive into the workout, I don’t know. However, when we don’t take the time to properly warm up, our bodies are at risk for injury and not performing at our full potential.

What is the purpose of a warm up?

The main reason to warm up before exercise is to increase blood flow to the muscles so they are prepared for increased activity. With increased blood flow, muscles have higher amounts of oxygen available, leading to improved performance. As the temperature of the muscle rises, contraction and relaxation is faster, and muscle flexibility increases. This combination allows our muscles to work more efficiently. If we begin to exercise with cold muscles, acute muscle tears occur more often.

What does a proper warm up include?

I often see stretching included in most warm ups. This is okay if it is dynamic stretching, which is moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion. For example, arm circles, high knees, and jumping jacks, all get the body moving and increase blood circulation. A warm up can last anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on the type and intensity of the exercise you are preparing to do. Below are some other exercises you can add to your warm up:

Hip Circles
Butt Kicks
Calf Raises
Jogging in Place
Walking Lunges
Body Weight Squats

Another benefit of warming up is mental preparation. During your warm up period, clear your mind, focus on what you are about to accomplish, and set your expectations for your workout. Half the battle comes from our mind. Remind yourself why you are choosing to live an active lifestyle, and this positive outlook can boost your attitude and performance