Mastering the Warm-Up

mastering-the-warm-upNo matter what sport or form of exercise you choose, you should always warm up. Proper preparation allows your body to perform at its best. Skipping a warm up can put you at greater risk for injury or a poor performance, and as athletes “age up” into new divisions, such as masters (over age 40 for runners and track and field athletes), they need to invest more time in the warm up.

A good dynamic warm up will help you achieve success by increasing the heart rate and body temperature and preparing the muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the work to follow. Start with 5-10 minutes of something easy like walking, running, or cycling then work on dynamic exercises to warm up, stretch, and strengthen. The key is to start slowly then gradually build up the intensity.

According to Val Shanaberger, a certified yoga instructor and ACE trainer at Lakewood Ranch YMCA, “A slower beginning to warm muscles and begin to move body parts is helpful to understand where our bodies are today so we can adjust accordingly and move mindfully through our practice of yoga postures.” Shanaberger, also a trainer at Shapes Total Fitness West Bradenton and Crunch Fitness, adds, “Starting slowly allows us to create freedom of movement, increased energy, better posture, and a feeling of well-being.” Muscle shortening, decreases in range of motion, and posture deterioration are all part of the aging process, and intensify more quickly in some people than others. According to USATF Level II certified track coach and Fleet Feet FIT specialist Kim Sheffield, “As we age, tissues and muscles get shorter. IF you’re going to be so conscientious as to exercise then take the necessary time in warm up to extend and loosen your muscles and tissue before you ask them to exert and propel.” The warm up is not a frivolous activity but rather critical to a good workout, warding off injury and fighting off age. A dynamic warm up can be a workout within itself and also fun if you give it a chance.

Save your static stretching for after your workout as part of your cool down. Below are some dynamic exercises to prepare you for your next workout. Start with 10-15 meters for each. You can increase the distance you perform the below exercises as your fitness improves. For a more challenging warm up or workout, try 50 meters of each exercise once you have mastered them.

• Skipping—with big arm circles forward then backward
• Skipping—open arms wide then give yourself a big hug. When skipping it is important to land on the middle of your foot, not on your toes or way back on your heels, and bring the knees up high so your thigh is parallel to the ground (think foot as high as your opposite knee)
• Side slide—walking or jogging
• Grapevine or carioca or weave
• Running with high knees
• Butt kicks
• Lunge—big step forward, keep back leg straight and hips tucked under, then reach arms up overhead to stretch hip flexors
• Toy soldier—walk forward lifting a straight leg with flexed foot to stretch the hamstrings
• Knee up—walk forward lifting your bent knee up toward chest while keeping hips tucked under to stretch the hamstrings
• Flicks—walk forward flicking your heel to your buttocks or you can also grab the foot with the hand for a quad stretch

Adding a dynamic warm up to your workouts will improve your overall fitness, prevent injury, and fight that aging process. Getting older does not have to mean doing less or slowing down. Many masters runners have been known to set personal records and win races. Athletes over age 40 can be just as strong and fast and have as much endurance as those many years younger. The key is to start taking your warm up seriously.