Yesterday I mentioned warming up as a key to improving and progressing as a runner. However, warming up does not just apply to running, but any sort of physical exertion.
Warming up is the most important part of any workout. More than the sets and reps, more than the weight you lift, the distance you run or the time you keep going for. At the end of the day, a good warmup can not only make or break a workout, but helps immensely to prevent injury, thereby allowing you to continue with more workouts.
Muscles are akin to rubber bands, which, after a night asleep, or a day at the office, these bands are constricted, cold and generally pretty useless. If you start your workout and immediately start putting tension on the muscles, they will very quickly snap, leading to a painful and impromptu end to your workout.
The key is to get them warm. Both literally and figuratively. Giving your muscles some low level exercises, by walking, jogging, jumping, swinging or kicking will get the blood flowing nicely, warming the muscles up. This will also have the desired effect of some low level stretching, priming the muscles for the workout to come.
A good warm up will combine various motions, and should be tailored to the sort of workout which you intend to do. A workout planned for just running will have a very different warmup to one which uses weights and is based on strength.
Prevention.com has a good catch-all warm up, whereas Men’s Health has different warm ups for strength and cardio. For a more intense warm up, which could, in the early stages, be perceived as a workout in itself, try this Nerd Fitness warm up, including jump rope, jumping jacks and squats!