Indicators Of An Adequate Warm Up
We all know that it is important to give our bodies the opportunity to adequately warm up before any type of vigorous physical activity. But do you know how to warm up? Do you understand how to tell if you have warmed up enough?
Why Are Warm-Ups Important?
A good, solid warm-up prepares your body for the workout ahead. Sure, you can run without warming up. But why would you want to? The pre-run warm-up gets your muscles, joints and tendons time to acclimate to the movements you are about to make. Also, in tandem with loosening up those muscles and joints, you are preparing your heart to work hard.
Slowly getting your heart rate elevated is much better than just jumping into vigorous exercise. This includes your lungs too! Don’t shock your body by just jumping into hard work.
What Happens If You Don’t Warm Up Before Running?
Running, or engaging in any type of exercise without warming up is not great for your body. First, you risk possible injury. This is especially true if you are about to run fast. Running fast without getting your body ready can and up with you getting hurt!
I have a hamstring issue that has been nagging me here and there for quite some time. When I try to run without getting that hamstring ready through proper warm-up, that nagging injury rears its ugly head.
Not only do I have to warm up my entire body, but I have to do targeted exercises specific to that hamstring to prevent pain, discomfort and potential sidelining from all athletic activity. The old saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is especially true for runners and injury!
What Are The Four Elements Of A Warm-Up?
There are some basic elements of any warm-up that you should implement into your routine. The first part is general warm up. This can be a very, very slow and gentle jog. It can even be walking around a bit. If you are at the gym getting ready to lift, you might jump on a stationary bike and gently pedal. You are in essence waking up the muscles to ready them for exercise.
After you have done some type of warming up, then it is safe to move on to the two types of stretching: static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you bend and hold a muscle in a particular place. A certain muscle or muscle group is held under tension for a period of time. In theory and if done properly, you can slowly bend that area and hold it to a greater degree and for a longer period of time as time goes on.
This is a reason why yoga is so hard for many people at first, but over time you get better at perfecting the moves. It also explains why during a yoga routine the stretches and bends get more complicated as the workout goes on. You don’t just jump right into a complicated pose or hold when your muscles are cold!
There is also sport-specific warming up. This involves certain things you need to do specifically to the exercise you are about to partake in. A runner might do quick feet or bounding for example. These things are pretty geared toward runners. A tennis player might do a movement mimicking a racket swing multiple times prior to ever making contact with a ball.
Dynamic stretches are stretches that involve movement while doing them. If not done correctly, you can injure yourself by doing these types of stretches. Sometimes your sport-specific and dynamic stretches are incorporated together. For example, when you look at running drills, these are sport-specific, dynamic stretches.
How To Warm Up Your Lungs Before Running
In theory, if you have adequately warmed up your body in a way involving the prescribed above steps, your lungs will be ready to go. If you jump right into vigorous exercise, your body will struggle on multiple fronts, including breathing. However, if you ease your body into physical activity, all of your major organs benefit.
While warming up, you should make a conscious effort to engage in some deep and deliberate breathing. This will relax your body and help you to keep your breathing controlled.
If you are about to exercise in very cold weather, you might find warming up indoors to be helpful. The process of warming up in warmer temperatures will dilate the lungs, making it easier for you to breathe outside.
How Do I Know If I Have Warmed Up Properly?
Excellent question. Does your body feel ready? Are your muscles loose? When you just start out with your warm-up, you likely feel like you are moving in a lethargic manner. You might feel like your movements are hindered and not being done smoothly.
As your body warms up, the movements feel more fluid. It is like you can do them easier. The stretches, both dynamic and static, have a greater range of motion when you are properly warmed up.
If you warming up for a particularly challenging workout, you should actually have a light bead of sweat appearing across your forehead. Your heart rate is likely slightly elevated and your breathing is even but you can tell you have done a little work.
An athlete who is unaware may just toe the line of a 5K hoping for the best. If you are doing things right, you are taking a bit of time to prepare your body for the battle it is about to go through.
Can You Warm Up By Easing Into The Activity?
Many runners warm up by just easing into the activity. My women’s running group does this. What do I mean? If you just decide to run a few miles and take the first mile easier, as your body gets used to the activity you are asking of it, you are warming up by easing in.
This should only be done if you can, and will, ease into it. For me, that might mean the first mile is done at my 10K pace, before ratcheting it down to the 5K training pace.
Is this a safe practice? Yes and no. If you are running with others and you decide to warm up in the first bit of your run, you may end up running faster than you had intended. Taking that first mile out too fast can result in injury if you are not careful.
Most of us don’t run our daily runs at a challenging pace, however. If you are careful and intentional about how you start an average run with no specific pace in mind, you can warm up this way without injury. However, I should mention that it is not best practice.
If you have ever done a Nike Running Club workout, you will notice they start you out with 5 minutes of an easy jog, then encourage you to pause the workout long enough to do your stretching.
The Peloton app will have you do things much the same. You will start off easy, then they slowly ask you to increase pace. If you do a Peloton treadmill run, they actually have you walk quickly or jog slowly, then they slow the tread way down (or pause it) to walk you through some running specific stretches. This is because these coaches recognize the value of slowly easing into the work you are about to do.
It is important to remember that warming up is an important aspect of staying healthy and running!