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How to Warm Up (And Why You Should)

So far in my “How to” series I have covered everything from how to use a stability ball to how to use the treadmill to how to use a foam roller (in my mind … the most “delicious” piece of equipment).

It is all well and good to know how to use fitness equipment, but only if you also know how to warm up prior to the actual workout. Let me tell you, an appropriate warm-up can be the difference between an awesome workout and quitting after 5 minutes.

Why? The warm-up literally preps your mind and body for the work that is to come; it is not a “would like to” but rather a “must do.” If you skip the warm-up — and workout “cold” — you will most likely feel some combination of out of shape, lethargic, stiff, winded, and discouraged. On the other hand, if you take 5 or so minutes to appropriately warm up, your body and your brain feel ready for anything!

As you perform your physical warm-up, take a minute to also warm up your mindset — get into the right headspace. A lousy headspace can make or break a workout!

A few of my favourite pep talks:

  • You are always in a better mood after a workout. Don’t think, just do!
  • The only workout you ever regret is the one you do not do.
  • Stop thinking and DO IT. Blah, blah, blah … Go WORK OUT!
  • This hour will pass regardless. You can spend it thinking about how you don’t want to train, you can quit and feel lousy for the rest of the day, OR you can make yourself do something and feel GREAT and accomplished for the rest of the day.

The warm-up: some background

  • The goal of a warm-up is to gradually warm you up. Don’t go “hard” right out of the gate. Start working at just above “normal life pace” — roughly a 4/10 of intensity. Then slowly build up to the intensity you will start your workout at.
  • The warm-up should roughly match the goals of your workout. So, if you’re weight training, your warm-up might be a few dynamic stretches and then making each of your weight training moves.
    • For example, if your training plan involves weighted squats, your warm-up would include squatting with just your body weight. Once warmed up, you add weight. If your goal is running, your warm-up would be jogging and maybe a few dynamic stretches.
  • Your warm-up should always “build” to what is hard for YOU. So, if squatting with no weight is hard for you, your warm-up might be exercises such as bridges, mini squats, and dynamic stretches to help build you to full body-weight squats.
  • Your warm-up is roughly 5 to 8 minutes. The worse your cardiovascular health, the longer your warm-up should be.

Options

  • On a treadmill, bike, elliptical, etc., spend 5 minutes gradually building from a 4/10 intensity to a 6/10 intensity. Then alternate 30 seconds at a 7/10 intensity with 30 seconds at a 6/10 intensity. Repeat for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • On a treadmill, bike, elliptical, etc., spend 5 minutes gradually building from a 4/10 intensity to a 6/10 intensity. Then cycle through 30 seconds at 6/10 intensity, 20 seconds at 6.5/10 intensity, and 10 seconds at 7/10 intensity for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Pick 5 different old-school aerobic moves (high knees, bum kicks, step taps, etc.) Do each move for 1 minute. Finish with a few dynamic stretches.
  • Blast some music and dance around for 5 minutes. Finish with a few dynamic stretches.
  • Incorporate balance. For 6 minutes alternate 1 minute of step-ups on the Bosu with 1 minute of marching on the Bosu.


Kathleen Trotter is a personal trainer in Toronto who loves audiobooks, planks and having a growth mindset. You can follow her blog or find her on Facebook.