The Physical and Mental Benefits of Warming Up — And How to Best Get Them

on November 13, 2019 • Grace

It’s easy to jump into a new physical challenge with dreams of becoming stronger, faster, tougher. That’s what pushes us to those grueling workout classes, or through that last mile, or up for another day of training. 

However, these hopes and dreams can often leave us feeling so excited and motivated that we end up neglecting some of the slower-paced parts of getting fit. We don’t want to spend ten minutes warming up when we can take that time to work on our sprints or lifts! 

Unfortunately, neglecting a warm up routines during training often leads to athletes ending up in physical therapy with exercise-related injuries. 

What’s more, taking the time to warm up before a vigorous workout can actually seriously improve your outcome. As Richard Stein, a professor of cardiology at New York University, said, “Warming up [is] good for your exercise performance — you’ll do better, faster, stronger.”

In order to get the outcomes you’re dreaming of, check out this complete guide to warming up: 

The Physical Benefits of Warming Up

Although you may be tempted to jump right into a new workout or challenge, there’s serious benefits for slowing down and taking 5 to 10 minutes to prepare your body for the task ahead. 

As Johnny Lee, president of the New York Heart Associates, says, “Warming up before any workout or sport is critical for preventing injury and prepping your body.”

That’s because as you warm up, your heart rate and breathing increases, pumping nutrient-rich blood into your muscles. This increase in blood flow oxygenates your muscles and aids in your joint mobility. 

As your body temperature rises and your blood spreads to your joints and muscles, everything in your body begins to loosen up and become more flexible. Your body starts producing synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant for stiff joints, and your overall mobility and movement becomes easier. 

Not only will this increase in joint mobility help you face any physical challenge coming your way, but it will also decrease your risk of experiencing an exercise-related injury. 

Personal trainer Nick Savin states, “When you start a workout, you put physical stress on your body. If you don’t warm up properly, you’re more likely to tear a muscle, sprain a joint or slip a disc in your back.” 

Think of your muscles like a rubber band. Stretch them when they’re too cold, and they will snap. Warm them up, and you can stretch them as far as they will go. 

The Mental Benefits of Warming Up

While a good warm up is essential for boosting and protecting your body during exercise, it is also important for preparing your mind for the challenges ahead. 

One of the main mental benefits of warming up is body and mind integration. As you move your body, you are activating both your right and left brain hemispheres. By performing specific cross-body movements during your warm up, you are keeping your mind alert and focused on the present task. 

This integrated focus is essential for a great performance because it helps you avoid any anxious thoughts or emotions that notoriously lead to choking. It’s something that has happened to the best of us: Your anxiety takes over during a challenge, and suddenly all of your training and practices go out the window. 

Warming up helps you avoid choking by giving you a built-in coping strategy. It’s a practice of control for both your mind and your body simultaneously, which will help you get your head in the game and keep it there. That’s because a warm up gets you focused on how your body is moving, helps you build concentration and gives you a chance to adapt to your environment. 

How to Properly Warm Up

Your warm up should not be nearly as strenuous as your regular exercise routine. Instead, start with slow but dynamic movements that prepare your mind and body for the workout or challenge you are about to face. 

Try this routine in order to best reap the physical and mental benefits of warming up:

  1. Jogging: Start with a light jog for 2 to 5 minutes. This will get your heart rate up and start to warm up your muscles. Begin with a slow pace, then gradually increase your speed and intensity. 
  1. Stretching: Once your muscles are warm, loosen them up with some slow stretches. Start with your major muscle groups, then move on to your workout-specific groups. Hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds, but beware of over-stretching. Remember, stretching should never be painful! 
  1. Joint mobility: Now that your body is nice and loose, focus on increasing your joint mobility. Start at the top of your body and work your way down by doing a variety of movements targeted at each joint. This could be anything from torso rotations to butt kicks to specific yoga moves. 
  1. Movement preparation: Practice the movements you will be doing during your upcoming workout, but without the intensity. For example, if you are about to play a match of football, warm up by passing the ball or practicing your footwork. 
  1. Mental preparation: Integrate your body and mind during your warm up with cross-body exercises, such as touching your elbow to your opposite knee and switching 20 times. Also get your head in the game by listening to positive music or repeating a motivating mantra to yourself as you go through these warm up motions. 

While most warm ups last around 5 to 10 minutes, your routine should reflect the workout or challenge that you are warming up for. That means that if you are anticipating an especially intense exercise, such as running a marathon or increasing the weight of your lifting session, you should increase the time of your warm up. 

Now that your body and mind are warm and prepared, it’s time to go directly into your workout. Waiting too long to start exercising after warming up will put your body in cool-down mode, meaning that you’ll have to start from the top all over again. Take no longer than 30 seconds to 2 minutes to switch from a nice and slow warm up to the training session of your dreams! 

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