Last week, we introduced the first challenge of the column - and you responded! I know many of you are in on the first challenge; if you missed it, no problem! Click here to get caught up.
In fitness, proper preparation is crucial in getting the most out of exercise. Since the first challenge deals with being active, preparation and safety are key components.
Whether you're a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or anything in between, warming up is crucial to minimize the likelihood of sports-related injury. Its main purpose is to prepare the body (and mind) for more strenuous physical activity - done in part by increasing both the body's core temperature, and that of major muscle groups.
"Don't bite off more than you can chew," recommends the sports medicine team at OrthoCarolina, a health care system in the Carolinas. "Warming up for activity is just as critical as activity itself, and it needs its own proper focus."
A solid warm-up does three things:
1. Engages major muscles to be loose and supple for activity2. Increases both heart rate and respiratory rate, preparing the heart and lungs for increased physical activity3. Increases blood flow, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the now-working muscles
First, use a general warm-up - three to five minutes in length - to activate your muscles with simple movements. I'm talking simple movement exercises like jumping jacks, squats, and arm swings.
After the general warm-up is complete, focus on movement-specific stretches to prepare various major muscles in your body - leg swings, trunk twists, and dynamic toe touches prepare your hamstrings and core for exercise.
Depending on activity level, you can use a third level of preparation, too - runners and cyclists, for example, may want to add lunges, core strength exercises, and static hamstring stretches to their activity preparation.
It may seem like a lot to warm up for 5 or 10 minutes before exercise, but one of the biggest concerns during activity is injury prevention. A proper warm-up helps prepare the body for movement while avoiding preventable injuries like cramps, muscle pulls, and simple strains.
"If you haven't been active, and are nervous about getting started safely, see your doctor to create a plan," recommends OrthoCarolina.
"While you are warming up, you should feel your muscles stretching - but any skeletal or joint pain may be a sign that your warm-up is too strenuous or intense."
As you take the activity challenge over these first few weeks, allow your body the ability to safely take on added exercise by preparing it properly. Listen to your muscles as you warm up, and remember the reason for doing so. You're not running a marathon in your warm-up - you're preventing injury and preparing major muscle groups for activity.
Keep letting me know how you're doing with the added movement in your day, and be sure to let me know how you're using warm-ups to better prepare your body for exercise. Make healthy decisions this week, and embrace change!
About the author:Bobby DeMuro is the Founder of No Fizz America, a non-profit dedicated to health and fitness. He is also the founder FusionSouth, a sports conditioning firm. You can follow him on Twitter here or on Facebook
You can listen to Bobby on his weekly radio show on Radio Exiles.