We’ve all been told that we should warm up before exercise, but many of us (myself included) often skip this part of the workout in the interest of saving time. That is, I used to skip it, before I learned how important warming up really is.

My first inkling came when I interviewed Meb Keflezighi, one of the top marathoners in the world (and arguably the top US men’s marathoner) for an Active.com article back in February. “If I’m short on time,” Meb told me, “I cut my workout short, but I never, ever skip my warm-up or cool-down.” He considers his devotion to warming up a top reason why, at  the age of 40, he is able to remain injury-free and highly competitive against much younger athletes.

Fast forward a couple of months to the start of my latest coaching certifications – the Spartan Group Exercise (SGX) and Spartan Obstacle Specialist (SOS) certifications. For those who don’t know about it, the Spartan race series is considered the toughest among obstacle course races, cramming 20-25 military-style obstacles over 3-mile, 8-mile, 12-mile or full marathon-length courses. Needless to say, the level of fitness required to compete at these events – and the potential for injury – are both high. That’s why, from day one, the program emphasizes incorporating good warm-ups into every workout.

What a Warm-up Should Be

The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare the body for exercise in several different ways.

  • First, it should quite literally warm the body up, raising muscle and core temperatures by several degrees.
  • Equally important, the warm-up should wake up the nervous system and tell the brain to get ready for activity.
  • For a warm-up to be safe and effective, it should begin with simple, slow, low-intensity movements and progress gradually, increasing the complexity and intensity of the movements until the brain and the body are ready for the workout ahead.
  • The best warm-ups will end with exercises that closely mimic the movements you’ll be doing in the actual workout.

This may sound like a lot to tack onto the front end of a workout, but a good warm-up will have you ready to exercise safely and at peak performance in only around 10 to 15 minutes.

For some tips on specific warm-up exercises for different types of workouts, stay tuned for my next blogpost: Building Better Warm-ups.

To make sure you never miss a post again, sign up for email notifications here.

One comment

Comments are closed.