Warm-up is considered as one of the important aspects of exercising and probably the most important routine to get your workout started. Despite repeated reminder to warm up before embarking on your exercises or any physical activities, many of us will either choose to take it lightly or not to do it at all.
For someone who just started out on exercising not long ago, I understand the reason behind our reluctance towards warming-up. We either find warm-up a waste of time (I know we are all too eager to sweat it out) or think that the calories burnt during the course of warm-up can be seen as negligible.
I am a very injury-prone person, at least that is the case for the past half of the year. I’ve been doing cardio, gymming and training for half-marathon to the point that there was a period this year when I felt a sharp pain in the ankle of my left leg. The pain came every time I exert a force on it. I continued with my routine nevertheless, telling myself to forgo all the pain.
As many should have guessed it by now, an injury means that my form would be off and every workout that I was doing was not as effective as it ought to be. I eventually had to take a long break to recuperate. It was a month or so before I resumed training.
Now, everyone will say that injury is part-and-parcel of an active person. It’s like the more you drive on the highway, the higher the chances that you might be involved in an accident. *Touchwood*
Warming-up is the answer to injury prevention.
I know that you might have heard a lot about the relations between doing your warm-ups and injury prevention but let me just share with you the science part of it:
1. Increase Flexibility and Injury Prevention
Effective warm-ups can help to increase your body temperature and as well as that of the muscles. A ‘hotter’ muscle would represent a higher blood saturation. High blood saturation plays a part in increasing the elasticity of your muscles, which in turn, beneficial in enhancing the joint range of motion. This will hence prepare the muscles to counter sudden movements in the performance of technical training.
Furthermore, a warmed-up body will stimulate the flow of synovial fluid, hence reducing friction between the joints will allow them to move freely.
The effectiveness of muscular contractions also depends greatly on your body temperature. An increase in temperature will promote blood flow, increase blood saturation and hence, improve the contractility of your muscles and its capacity for work.
To achieve the full benefits of your warm-up, it is advised to do your stretching exercises immediately after you have warmed up. There is always a misconception to start right away with stretching because you have a higher chance of straining your muscles and damaging your connective tissues when your muscle temperature is relatively low.
2. Reduce Stress on the Heart
If being injury-prone and becoming more flexible do not give you enough reasons to start putting efforts into your warm-ups, this reason alone probably will.
You might have heard how people suffer from heart attacks during their exercises. One reason is due to the fact that they did not warm up enough.
Warming up helps to increase your heart beat slowly, giving your heart enough time to get used to the changes in the heart rate. A sudden increase of heart rate will result in an increase in the stress experienced by the heart, which will result in a heart attack.
When you warm-up gradually, you will also help your blood vessels to dilate and giving more space for blood circulation to occur. A dilated blood vessel will increase the efficiency for blood circulation and therefore decreasing the resistance the heart experienced to push the blood around the body.
3. Psychological Boost
Although there might not have studies that show evidence regarding the psychological aspect of warm-up, yet it does provide a very-much-needed boost ahead of your routine.
Personally, I’ve experienced the wonder warm-ups can do to your routine. Every time after a warm-up, I felt extremely pumped up and that gave me the motivation to go for an extra rep during gym or an additional kilometre for my runs.
Of course, any element that involves psychology has a different effect on different people. Some people, like me, tend to perform better with a warm-up, while others can just do as well without it. A review by Bill and Geoff Tancred stated that this could be due to some individuals ‘feeling hesitant or even afraid to perform maximally without warming-up’.
There could have been some truth in there, yet there is more to that.
When you embark on an exercise, your brain will release two kinds of hormones: adrenaline (epinephrine) and norepinephrine. These two hormones will increase your heart rate and, at the same time, allow more blood to flow into your muscles.
Together with the increase in the muscle temperature, which acts as a catalyst in lowering the activation energy for essential metabolic chemical reactions to occur in the body, will help your muscle to perform at an elevated level, enhancing your performance as a whole.
In addition, if you are involved in a competition or race, a warm-up prior to the actual event will be beneficial. You can make use of the duration of the warm-up to concentrate, which can help to discharge or increase aggression.
It is important to take note that the benefits of warm-up will be reduced and lost once the body returns to its resting states of heart rate, respiration and, body temperature.
I will share more about the different kinds of warm-up you can do in my subsequent article!