By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
You probably know that a good warm-up leaves you energized and ready to get the most from your fitness equipment. Did you know that it can also be used to prevent injuries and build strength? If you're confused by the idea of a pre-workout warm-up and settling for a few held stretches (or skipping the warm-up entirely), it's time to start getting more from your home fitness equipment workouts. Think about adding in one of the following warm-up options to your workouts at home.
Start Slow: The simplest approach to warming up is to do whatever you're planning on doing during your workouts but more slowly and gradually expanding your range of movement. So, if you're hitting your recumbent bike or elliptical, use the first 5-10 minutes to enjoy working through your range of motion at a slower pace than usual. Runners might hit the treadmill at a slow jog, or even a walk. Warming up in this way allows your circulation to gradually feed the muscles that will be working hard. This means fewer muscle cramps and an opportunity to work more intensely after you've warmed up. Listen to your body to determine how long your warm-up needs to be. Fatigue, dehydration, age, and diet can all play a role in determining how comfortable our workouts feel. By giving yourself enough time to warm-up (somewhere between 5 and, on a bad day, 20 minutes), you can reap the benefits of a longer, more intense workout.
Build Strength: By mimicking the movements of your workout and even working into a greater range of motion, your warm-up can be an opportunity to work in some strength training, especially if you tend to fall into the cardio-only approach to exercise. For one approach to a strength training warm-up, check out this link
. A strength focused warm-up should be between 5 and 10 minutes in duration and emphasize the use of body weight resistance at a slow pace to ease into the range of motion you will use during your workouts. Examples of exercises that fit into this category are lunges, planks, pushups, and body weight squats. Your goal is to energize those muscles that are used and to get your major muscle groups working together, rather than to exhaust yourself before you get to the meat of your workout. Look for more on strength training in my blog post later this month.
Avoid/Recover from Injuries: Have you noticed a nagging sensation in your left calf since your last elliptical workout? Maybe your lower back is aching ever since you started your cycling routine. A customized warm-up gives you the chance to address your own aches and pains and make sure that they aren't compounded by your next workout. Start with enough movement to warm the muscles, followed by dynamic stretches for problematic areas, then slowly ease into your workout. To dynamically stretch your muscles, gently move into and out of a stretch (without bouncing) of any areas that have been injury prone or troublesome. Follow this stretching with a gradual increase in intensity of your planned workout.
Customize: Adapt your warm-up to your needs on any given day. You can pick and choose from the above approaches to design a warm-up that leaves you ready to get the most from your home fitness equipment. By the end of your warm-up, you want to feel slightly flushed, perspiring, and psychologically ready to tackle your workout.
Weigh in: Do you use a warm up when using your home fitness equipment? What's your approach?