Do you really need to warm up before a training run? After all, who has time between their busy day and their afternoon workout to get in a few drills?
Just like you warm up an oven before cooking a meal or baking a tasty treat to create the perfect dish, you also need to prepare your body for what you’re about to serve up during an impending exercise session.
But who has the time to spend 10 minutes warming up before a 45-minute track session or 30 minute time trial?
Well, consider that those 10 minutes could save you six or more weeks of recovery time from injury and it might make it seem more worthwhile.
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A warm-up helps our bodies transition
A proper warm-up helps our bodies safely transition from our sedentary, inactive lifestyles, where we spend eight hours or more asleep or in a chair at our desk.
During these extended periods of inactivity and lack of movement, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons can tighten up and we lose joint mobility and flexibility.
When we do, diving straight into a long run, high-intensity track workout or race can lead to injury.
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Following a regular warm-up routine before any form of exercise helps to promote and restore natural movement and function to joints and the surrounding soft tissues – muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia. In this way, a thorough warm up helps to reduce our injury risk.
But a proper warm up also has performance benefits as it triggers various physiological responses.
For instance, movement promotes blood flow to our leg muscles and slowly raises our body temperature. This combination leads to more supple muscles and increase joint mobility for that specific movement.
A warm-up and ramp-up routine also raises your heart rate gradually, rather than an abrupt surge that can leave you gasping for air and feeling out of breath in the early stages of your run.
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Promote natural movement
Incorporating some form of mobilisation work into your warm-up routine can also improve your posture and correct joint alignment to ultimately help you move in a more natural way.
From a pure performance perspective, warm-ups and mobility drills activate the relevant muscles and get them firing by switching on the neural pathways that connect our muscles to our brain.
Priming our neuromuscular system in this way ensures muscles fire when they’re supposed to and do so in the right sequence, which helps them contract with more force.
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The best warm-up routines should include movements that are specifically tailored to your workout for the best results.
For example, a suitable warm up before a run should include a 5-10 minute easy jog followed by a ramp up in intensity. End your warm up with dynamic multi-joint movements that mobilise joints and activate the muscles you will use during the activity, like some high knees, leg swings and butt kicks.
This is the ideal combination of sport-specific movements to get your body warmed up and everything working as an integrated system.