Warm Up Before You Work Out - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Healthy Living Online

Published on June 25, 2015

Woman stretching before a cardio workout

Warm Up Before You Work Out

Woman stretching before a cardio workoutWhen I was a freshman in college, I drove a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle. Since the university I attended was in a snowy climate, I got used to going out to the car about 10 minutes early to start the engine so it could warm up while I scraped ice off the windows.

Cars are more advanced today, and California weather doesn’t usually demand 10 minutes to warm up the engine. But one takeaway from this example is that complex machines often require time to warm up. Your body is no exception.

When you’re getting ready for a cardio workout, whether it’s running, biking or swimming, you need to remember that if you want to get the best performance out of your machine, you need to stretch it and warm it up. And not just the muscles either. You need to involve all of the moving parts - muscles, ligaments and joints.

Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching

There are basically two types of stretches - static and dynamic. Static stretching is the kind of warm up where you hold a pose, like touching your toes, for a certain period of time, usually around 30 seconds.
Dynamic stretches incorporate movement and take your joints through their full range of motion. Most experts agree that dynamic stretches are generally better than static, but you can also do a combination.
If you’re not familiar with dynamic stretching, here are some examples:

  • Swing your arms forward and backward
  • Rotate your trunk in circles with your arms extended outward
  • Swing your legs forward and backward
  • Swing your legs side to side
  • Stand on a step or curb with your heels hanging off the end and do calf raises
  • Jog in place, raising your knees high

However, bear in mind that dynamic stretching can be problematic for beginners, especially when taking joints through their full range of motion, so be sure to ask your doctor or a physical therapist about the best stretches to match your body type, your health history and the type of exercise you’re doing.

Warming Up Your Machine

If you do each of your dynamic stretches for 20 seconds, you will slowly and safely elevate your core body temperature, lubricate your muscles, ligaments and joints, and get your muscles ready to fire in the way you expect them to.

If you properly prepare before your workout, your warmed-up body will not only function better, but you’ll be less prone to injury. And hopefully, your exercise career will last a lot longer than my old Volkswagen did.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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