Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Warming up, why do we do it?

Warming up. A vital part of any exercise. You warm up before a run, a swim, a bike. You warm up before you race. But why do we warm up? What are it's benefits? This week I'll be discussing why warming up is important, some ideas on how to warm up, why specificity is important in warm ups and I'll also go in to depth about my warm up challenge for October. 

Currently I walk for 3-5 minutes before I run. I rarely cool down, often I'll walk until I reach home. I try to then drink plenty of water and then shower. I don't stretch.

So, why is warming up important? Firstly, it's important to warm your muscles up before any exercise. Your body isn't ready to go from stationary and by not warming up, you risk becoming injured. Warming up delivers blood to your muscles so that they receive all the right components to move your body. Secondly, warming up is good for your mind. It helps prepare you for exercise and you can start getting yourself motivated while warming up. Cooling down is also important while exercising. It slowly helps your body prepare itself to change from moving back to stationary. This also helps to prevent injuries by stretching any areas that feel sore.

It is advisable to use dynamic stretching while you warm up instead of static stretching as it prepares your muscles for the correct movements that you'll be doing while exercising. This is where specificity comes in. It's important to warm up the muscles that you'll be using for your specific exercise.  For example, it's important to warm up your lower body and hips for running. And it's important to warm up both arms and legs for swimming. An easy warm up to do is to perform your chosen exercise but at a slower pace. For instance,  walking is a good warm up to lead onto running. This can also apply to other exercises, pedaling slowly for a cycling warm up, and swimming at a slow pace to lead into faster swimming. 

Next, I'll go into detail about a running warm up that I used to do before every run. I was encouraged to do this warm up by my physiotherapist as I was prone to Achilles tendon pain and lower leg pain. First, I would get a skipping rope and jump for 1 minute (see Picture A). This quickly got my heart rate elevated and the muscles in my legs warm. I would then stand in front of a pole and do leg swings across my body, 10 on each leg (see Picture B). I would then do leg swings from front to back, 10 on each leg (see Picture C). I then would quickly swing my arms side to side to warm up my upper body, particularly my back. And then I was away running. This warm up would only take me 2 minutes but it was enough to get me warm and my body ready for running.

Picture A

Picture B

Picture C

So what am I aiming for?

1. Warm up at home before every run
2. Dynamic stretches/skipping before every run
3. Cool down properly
4. Stretch and ice if necessary
5. Make sure I'm eating the right foods for recovery

My warm up challenge for the month of October

Week 1- focus on warm up
From 1st to 7th October, I will focus on doing a warm up of some sort before every run this week. I won't worry about quality or quantity, more so to focus on starting a new routine.

Week 2- try something new for warm up
From 8th to 14th October I will incorporate something new into my warm up. I will need to do some research to see what other exercises I could include in a warm up to make sure there is some variety.

Week 3- focus on cool down
From 15th to 21st October I will focus on doing a cool down of some sort after every run this week. I won't worry about quality or quantity, more so to focus on starting a new cool down routine.

Week 4- try something new for cool down
From 22nd to 28th October I will incorporate something new into my cool down. I will do some more research to see what other exercises I could include in a cool down to make sure I continue with variety.

How will I know if it's working well or not?

I'll hopefully know my warm up is working well for me if I'm able to get up to a comfortable pace quicker than with no warm up. Often when I haven't warmed up, I get a few pains in my lower legs and I take longer to get up to my preferred pace. I think having an appropriate warm up will make me feel excited and ready for my run. It will also set up a good routine for my body and mind to prepare itself for a run. I'm hoping a thorough cool down will result in less soreness after a run and will make sure my body is ready for the next run.

What do you do for your warm up and cool down?


  1. Dare I say it? I don't do any form of warm up, cool down or stretches either before or after a run, aside from walking around the house or walking a couple hundred metres home if a run finishes short of my front gate. Never have, probably never will. Although I do understand why I SHOULD do it...

  2. Oh, you don't realise how happy I am that I'm not the only one. I feel like I'm breaking a huge running rule by not warning up! How do you feel after your longer runs?