You did it. You signed up for a gym membership and got yourself through the door to workout.
You throw your sneakers on and spend five minutes on the stationary bike. Then with the blood flowing, you yank your foot to your butt and call that a quad stretch; maybe bend over and touch your toes and call it good for your hammies. And that's all you remember from your high school volleyball stretching routine.
Wait. Arm circles! Yes, you do some arm circles. Why on earth did you do arm circles? (Probably because your coach did arm circles.) Wait.
Reverse the arm circles!
So you do that too.
Is this what your warm up looks like? If so, you're not alone. When I first started lifting weights, I had no idea how to prepare my body for a workout. (And when I ran 35-50 miles a week I was even worse about warming up.) I jumped on the stationary bike for five minutes, did a few stretches I remembered from college and got to it. But then I got myself a coach, and in turn, learned what it meant to really get myself ready for a workout session. Now I start with a little foam rolling before moving on to a dynamic* warm up.
Why warm up?
1. Injury prevention
If you're spending five minutes on the stationary bike and then jumping right to a grueling workout, it might only be a matter of time until a tweak here and a tweak there turns into a full blown muscle strain, or worse yet, a tear. And for those of you in the over 30 club, a good warm up becomes even more important to stay healthy for longer.
2. Corrective exercise (or counteracting the effects of sitting all day)
Corrective exercise has been all the rage in the fitness industry for awhile now, and one of the best places for those type of exercises is the warm up. Listen, this stuff is not exciting, I get it. It makes your face go numb. I know. But wouldn't you rather have a numb face where chin hairs grow wild than a hamstring pull that knocks you out of that Halloween 5K you've been training for?
Your warm up is your opportunity to do two to three exercises designed to correct muscle imbalances and help you move better. (If you want to know exactly what imbalances you have, sign up for an assessment with a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer. You might also ask a physical therapist if you have one; chances are he or she is begging you to do these exercises).
For those of you desk jockeys that spend the bulk of your day hunched over a computer or desk, it's wise to counteract that position with a few stretches. Think about the last time you were sitting at your desk and leaned back to stretch. Feels good right? Opening both of those arms up and sticking your chest out while you take in a good lungfulof oxygen? In fact, do that right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Then, before you're next workout, try this:
I know, I know. A client of mine calls it the sprinkler. But it feels good. And it can help you loosen up your thoracic spine (also known as that area between your shoulder blades). Every little bit of movement helps.
If you're pressed for time, the walking spiderman lunge with reach is an excellent movement that hits your lower body as well. Ideally, you'll do both. (Five per side for reps.)
The yogaplex is exercise I'll superset with a compound lift, like a deadlift or pull up. I promise you it's much more challenging than it looks. And it's going to also hit those hip flexors, which is another area of the body that bothers desk jockeys. Stretch those bad boys out.
And the last one for today. In fact, do this one three times a day, eight reps per side if you're working a desk job.
Check back Friday for part two on warming up.