Why do we need to warm up before exercise?
Warming up is an essential part of your exercise prep because it helps to prevent injury.
It’s really just what it sounds like – getting your muscles warm and ready for exercise. Warm muscles are looser, more flexible and less likely to sustain an injury like muscle strain. Warm muscles are also better at supporting joints, helping to prevent joint injuries like ankle sprain.
It also helps to boost circulation, sending oxygen-rich blood to the muscles you’ll be using.
Warming up is particularly important in the winter, especially if you’re running outside in the colder weather.
How do I warm up?
Everyone has different warm up routines, and this can often depend on the exercise chosen. For something like running, a brisk 5 minute walk is often enough to get your muscles ready. However, for sports like badminton or squash which use a range of muscles, you may need a more comprehensive warm up that gets the muscles in your legs, core and arms ready.
My favourite warm up routine
My routine aims to warm up the whole body, so it’s particularly useful for sports and workouts, as well as cycling and running. With each exercise, just remember that this is a warm up not a workout, so you don’t need to push yourself too hard.
Jumping Jacks are a cardio-intense activity that involve both the arms and the legs, helping to increase heart rate and improve circulation to the extremities. It’s a great way to get the whole body moving.
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Simultaneously jump your legs apart and swing your arms up. Jump back to the original position. Repeat for 1 minute.
The lunge stretch stretches out the muscles around the hips, so it’s great for any leg-based exercise such as running or cycling, as well as sports that involve flexibility like badminton.
How to: Kneel at one end of the mat and stretch one leg forward so it forms a right angle. Put your hands on your hips and stretch the hips forward. You may reach your opposite arm over the head. Hold the position for 3 to 5 breaths and return to start position. Repeat for 30 seconds on each leg.
Squats are a great exercise for the legs – particularly the thighs and glutes. However, it can also get your heart rate up.
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now bend your knees and send your hips backwards as if sitting on a chair. Make sure your knees do not go past your toes and keep your upper body upright. Come back up, making sure your knees don’t lock. Repeat for 1 minute.
Punch & Leg Kick Combo
The punch & kick combo will simultaneously warm up the arms and legs, and also stretch them out a bit.
How to: Stand with one foot in front of the other in a wide stance. Lean forward and punch like a boxer. Then lean back and kick one leg into the air. Do this diagonally, so if you punch with your right hand, kick with your left foot. Repeat for 30 seconds per leg.
The tricep extension is particularly important if your workout involves weights or if your sport is particularly taxing on the arms, like tennis.
How to: Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take the elastic in both hands. Hold one arm behind your lower back and the other up and over your head so that the band runs parallel with your spine. Straighten your top arm, tightening the band. Relax. Repeat for 30 seconds on each arm.
Jumping Jacks – again!
Finish off your warm up with another minute of jumping jacks to make sure the whole body is warmed and circulation is working efficiently.
What about a cool down?
Most people know the importance of a good warm up, but what about a cool down? This is really important to prevent stiffness as it helps to relax the body slowly, keeping the muscles moving long enough to disperse any toxins that have built up during exercise.
Look out for my next blog post on the perfect cool down routine.