Why warm up?
Whether you’re doing physical training or doing physical work, or even in a sedentary role, we often put too little of our focus on warming up properly. We always figure that it’s not such an important or even mandatory aspect of physical activity.
When you gradually ease into a physical movement with a warm-up, you not only loosen up your body and prepare it for the work, but you also prime your nervous system. This results in more focus, more energy, and better mobility. A thorough warm-up also increases your heart rate and body temperature, warms up your body’s Synovial fluid (responsible for decreasing friction between joints) and greatly reduces your risk of injury.
You get these, and other benefits from a good warm-up so let’s take a deeper look:
1. It primes your nervous system for the work
One of the most noticeable benefits of warming up is the mental preparation. When we get to the gym or to work, we aren’t necessarily prepared or in the mindset for work. On the contrary - we are often sluggish to start and feel still.
But, by jumping into a warm-up from the get-go, you don’t give your brain time to make up excuses. You get in motion and gradually enter a state of preparedness that sets a pattern that wants to keep you moving throughout the day. For example, if you got to work and became instantly swamped by work, you could plant your butt and find you’ve hardly moved by the end of the day. But a warm up in the morning can be a simple step to get your body ready for the day, and prompt you to keep the movement going throughout.
Consciously or unconsciously, you know that you need to prime your mind and your body to increase your chances of success.
2. It raises your muscle temperature
Optimal muscle temperature is imperative for the best performance. A cold muscle is stiff and prone to a strain, pull, or even tear. Furthermore, a cold muscle doesn’t contract as forcefully. A warm muscle, on the other hand, contracts much better, relaxes much faster and is much less likely to be injured.
3. It raises your blood temperature and flow
As the blood travels through your working muscles, its temperature is increased. This is important because, during physical work, your muscles need an increased blood flow which carries glucose, oxygen, amino acids, and ATP (a high energy molecule needed by the muscles). Also, as muscles contract, they produce lactic acid and other waste material that need to be carried away by the blood and metabolized in the liver.
Because of these processes, the blood flow is dramatically greater during exercise and properly warming up sets you up for a great workout from minute one.
4. It increases the range of motion of your joints
Before doing physical work, you feel stiff and immobile. That’s normal. When you begin warming up and moving your joints, you gradually improve the range of motion around them. This is crucial for any exercise. Whether you do intervals on the track, perform complex movements like the deadlift, or practice high jumps, you need an optimal range of motion.
Not only does this allow you to perform each activity properly, but it also greatly reduces your risk of injury.
5. It increases your core body temperature
Athletic performance is tightly correlated with core body temperature. Most of the research out there suggests that, as long as you have a normal sleep-wake cycle, your body will reach optimal temperature for exercise in the later afternoon. Core body temperature is tightly linked to blood and muscle temperature, hormonal production, and joint range of motion.
If you’ve ever exercised in the morning, I’m sure you remember how stiff, immobile, and sluggish you felt. This is partially because in the morning, shortly after waking up, your core body temperature is low. Because of that, it’s also a good idea (if not mandatory) to take extra long warm-up sessions if you perform exercise in the morning and not in the afternoon or evening.
But in any case, thoroughly warming up ensures that your core body temperature is optimal for the best possible performance both when exercising and facing the work day.
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