Long story short: our training sessions determine our performance, and very often, our warm ups can determine if we have a successful training session. Unfortunately, our tendency is to cut short, skimp, or completely disregard our warm up, and it deserves more credit than that since it is key to the success of our main set!
I could go into a more scientific explanation of why the warm up is important, but very often it comes down to the fact that an inappropriate workout sets us up not FEELING GOOD for the workout. It doesn’t give us the full time to be gradual enough for our system to catch up to too much of an overload in oxygen deficit, and we for either *physiologic or *mental reasons are led to blow the workout.
It has likely happened to us all: think back to a workout where your breathing just couldn’t normalize throughout the workout. The warm up may have been rushed, and it may have just been because of that specific day- the pace of that warm up may have been completely fine for another day, but for one particular day, it may have been too much due to a number of factors (dehydration, fatigue, etc). OR: think back and notice if this scenario has played out for you before. You are doing a treadmill workout and your typical warm up may begin at maybe 9 min mile pace, so you go to that. It feels hard and horrible, but you keep at it thinking, this is what I always do, what the heck. What is wrong with me, why is this hard? How am I going to get through ½ mile repeats when my warm up feels so hard. Maybe this isn’t the day to do my hard effort? Maybe I should change the workout. Maybe I just go take a nap! That is a perfect example of our training being blundered by stringent mental thinking and negative self talk/ self sabatoge!
Sometimes the answer is in just letting our bodies be less exact with our numbers on the warm up and just go with what truly does feel EASY and the MOST GRADUAL warm up that we need! Everyone is different- some people need longer warm ups. I’ve noticed over the years that I used to be able to warm up with a mile, then after a mile some pickups and Im good to go. Not any longer. Maybe it is age, maybe it is coming back from injury, but I now need a minimum of 2 miles of pure warm up, maybe even 3. I sometimes even start with a minute of walking. And I truly advocate letting it be a progressive, self determined, day determined progression. Following no orders, no rules, no “supposed to” paces. And also not judging mentally along with this warm up. Really listen to your mental self talk along the way to see the types of things you are saying to yourself, the self talk that will continue on for the remainder of the session (and very well along with how you generally treat yourself during training—do your talk yourself up or down).
What about strength training? Is a warm up important to that type of workout also? Absolutely. It should involve muscles, full body motion, lateral movement, front to back, opening and closing the spine, spinal rotation, balance. It doesn’t need to be long, but it does ideally need to include all of these movements if you want to do your best in your workout.
And, seeing as we are spending our precious and valuable time with exercise, we should be mindful that we spend the first 3-5 minutes, up to 10-15-20 minutes making the “purpose of the session” successful. Broaden this introspection to even consider warm ups when you are with a group, running with a partner, etc. If you find yourself talking too much during the run with a partner, make some changes if that is affecting your breathing/warm up, if you feel the need to follow too fast a pace, meet your partner after a mile or two, etc.
We literally can win the workout with the warm up. Or lead to a wasted workout. Our time is valuable, our training is important to us, so do sweat the small stuff here!! Maybe the warm up isn't so small afterall!??!!