Your ability to train safely all winter long stems from a proper warm up and cool down within your daily training. There are three physiological benefits to an effective warm up.
Let’s take a look…
Distributes blood to the extremities
Your warm up is an activity that allows the body to transition from inactivity to activity and to distribute the blood flow into the extremities.
This distribution of blood warms up the muscles, tendons, cartilage and ligaments avoiding any pumping, cramping or tearing, and preparing them for the more intense work to come.
Activates protein cells
A warm-up activates live protein cells called collagen and elastin.
These proteins are laid down along the lines of force that occur when the connective tissue is stretched. This tissue needs to be supple and responsive to the forces exerted on it during physical activity.
Stretching opens small blood vessels that nourish the connective tissue. Along with muscle movement, the increased body heat changes the molecular conformation of collagen and elastin, making them more springy and resilient.
Properly warming up helps prevent connective tissue tearing caused by quick and forceful movements during exercise – especially early in the workout or event.
Fuel source management
Warming up utilises the fuel source your body uses to fuel your workout, from mostly muscle glycogen to stored fatty acids.
During the early portion of your workout (the specific duration of time is still debated due to the influence of an individual’s fitness level and intensity levels, but 15 mins is a rough rule), your muscles draw predominately on glycogen (which is stored in your liver and muscles) for fuel.
During the later duration of your workout, the muscles rely mostly on liver glycogen and fatty acids from stored fat cells.
Research indicates that the longer the workout, more glucose is made in the liver from sources other than glycogen, such as lactate, glycerol and protein. Proteins are made of amino acids and there are 16 of them found in the liver that can be converted to glucose.
What type of stretching should I do?
Dating all the way back to 1947, researchers found that a warm up of 15-30 minutes yielded a 3%-6% performance improvement – just from warming up!
In a research report in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise journal, it demonstrated that stretching for 20 minutes before a race yielded performance times that were 3% to 5% faster than without stretching; however, the type of stretching is important.
Static stretching is NOT a good warm-up. Dynamic stretching will prepare your body for work.
What is an effective warm up routine?
For an effective warm-up, you need to alternate between your sport-specific activities with dynamic stretching over the course of 15-30 minutes. Here is an outline:
A) 5-10 minutes of general warm-up such as fast walking or running in place
B) 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches such as high steps, walking lunges, push-ups.
C) 5-10 minutes of sport specific activity with 4-6, 30-second accelerations
Don’t be put off by the cooling temperatures and shorter days – enjoy your Winter workouts safely, without any injuries and keep achieving results.
Read more from WatchFit Expert Terry Linde