Make Your Warm Up Count

November 24th, 2013 by Roxane Kippen, USA Triathlon Certified Coach
Training time is valuable and athletes want to get the most out of their workouts. This can often lead to skipped warm ups, which may be more detrimental than trading the additional 10 minutes of workout time for properly prepping the body for activity. Just 10 minutes before every workout can go a long way in helping prevent injury.
When many people think of warm up, they tend to envision a light jog or easy spin, but there are two other things that should happen before this “cardio” phase of a warm up. The first part of a warm up is designed to stimulate motor neurons, which send messages from the brain to the muscles. This is called neuromuscular activation (NMA). Several NMA exercises include balancing on one leg for several seconds in various positions, such as leg out to the front, activating the quads or leg lifted behind, engaging the glutes and hamstrings. Other examples are arm circles, calf raises and leg swings. These activities open up the brain to muscle communication that will be needed for the workout. An NMA routine does not need to be more than 5 minutes in duration.
The second part of a warm up is important for increasing blood flow and increasing range of motion. A dynamic warm up (DWU) is critical to injury prevention and should become a habit for every athlete before every training session. A DWU routine progresses from light impact exercises such as walking on heels and walking on toes, to higher intensity exercises like running high knees and power skips. The dynamic warm up should be between 5 and 10 minutes in length.
After the NMA and DWU, some athletes will still desire an additional cardio warm up. Generally, the time spent on cardio warm up can be reduced to 5 or 10 minutes following NMA and DMU, depending on the intensity of the training session to follow. Incorporating a good warm up into every workout session is an extremely valuable use of training time and should never be sacrificed due to a tight schedule. Make it a habit to complete a warm up routine before every training session.