Which body part is the slowest to wake up each morning? Is it your achy low back, tight hamstrings, or like me, tender calves and feet?
Gone are the days when you could spring out of bed, throw on your clothes, down a strong coffee, and head out for a hard workout. Your muscles need time and movement to warm and lengthen before beginning your day or exercising.
Muscles may be up to 30% shorter first thing in the morning, compared to later in the day. As a certified running coach and athlete, I know full well the importance of a thorough warmup. The warmup is the most critical component of a complete workout, especially if you are over 25.
A thorough and gradual warmup serves many purposes according to the American Council on Exercise:
- Creates efficient calorie burning by increasing core body temperature
- Delivers oxygen more quickly to muscles
- Prevents injuries by improving elasticity of muscles
- Improves range of motion
- Allows for better muscle control because your brain engages
- Allows you to work out longer due to better elimination of lactic acid
- Produces faster, more efficient muscle control
The warmup also allows you to prepare mentally for the coming workout. You may find yourself in your workout clothes and headed out for a run but not quite sure where you are going, at what speed, or for how long. The warmup time allows you to focus on the task ahead and make the most of your workout. You may not feel 100% heading out the door but after a 10-20 minute warmup you develop a new perspective as your mind and body prepare to work hard. Alternatively, the warmup may tell you that a muscle is aggravated or that a sickness is coming on. Listen to your body during the warmup.
Here is a suggested warmup routine geared towards runners but easily adapted for all sports like paddle, swimming, tennis, walking, biking, skiing, or the elliptical.
Perform functional movement exercises. Functional movement exercises are especially critical if you exercise early in the morning. These movements involve the large muscles utilized during your workout. Begin by moving and warming your core-the back and abdomen, and work your way out to the extremities-neck, arms and legs:
Core-spinal tilts on hands and knees, prone extension laying on your stomach, alternate knee into the chest laying on your back, sun salutations and other easy core engaging moves
Legs-easy down dog with feet peddling, moving low lunges to easy leg extension, ankle rolls
Hips-leg circles on hands and knees and standing leg swings,
Upper body-arm swings, shoulder and neck rolls, standing upper body circles, standing side leans, standing gentle twists
Develop a routine that flows from move to move, again starting from your core and working out. This functional warm up is a phenomenal way to start your day even if you aren’t working out. Think gentle movements as opposed to stretching!
Walk for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing your pace. This is also functional. Your muscles will continue to warm, and can focus on the workout ahead of you. Use your 10 minutes of walking to accomplish an errand. Walk the dog, make a mail drop, return library books, return a borrowed item to a friend, or use your treadmill to catch up on the day’s news. It can also be a great way to include your kids or spouse in your workout and spend a few quality moments with them. On cool days, wear an extra layer of clothing which will aid in generating body heat and increasing blood flow. Drop the layer after the 10 minutes of warmup walking. Real runners walk before they run!
Gently stretch your large muscles groups-hamstrings, quads, calves, butt, hips, and core if you feel tight. Reserve time at the end of your workout for more concentrated, static stretching.
Start your run (swim, tennis play, bike etc.)at a slow pace for at least 10 minutes. Your hardest efforts should be at the end of your workouts.
Include this complete warm up routine before every workout and experience better workouts and reduced risk of injury. It will help to keep you active for your entire life. Try it and drop me a note to let me know how it impacted your workout.
- Perform the functional movement exercises first thing in the morning in front of a fire, or with candles.
- Allow yourself a peaceful, gentle start to the day.
- Lifting a heavy load of laundry first thing in the morning is very stressful on cold, short muscles.
- The functional movement exercises are key to a healthy body.
- On cool days, wear an extra layer of clothing during the walking portion of the warmup. This layer will aid in generating body heat and increasing blood flow. Drop the layer once you get going.