Why Warm Up

The How, What, When, Why, & Where of Warming Up

Why Warm Up

Admit it. You hate warming up. I hate warming up. That guy who runs past your front window every morning at 6:30 a.m. and makes it all look so easy—he hates warming up too.

There are two kinds of warm up in my world:

1. I am chomping at the bit, just want to run as fast as I can and don't have the patience to warm up.

2. I am dragging my ass, muscles & joints are cold, brain is just not into it and I don't want to do any of it, let alone tack on 5-10 minutes to warm up.

Sound at all familiar? Here is the difference between you and I, though: I HAVE to warm up. My body is my business. If I don't warm up before I do my own work out or before I launch into a Belly Bootcamp class, I might not be teaching many classes in the future. (Check out a few of our Belly Bootcamp mommies warming up above!) Your body might be purely for recreation, but it's still the only one you've got and there are a lot of reasons to warm up that body before a work out:

  • raise body temperature to warm muscles & connective tissues (warmer = stretchier)
  • warm and lubricate joints for ease of movement and less injury/pain
  • raise heart rate and respiration slowly to the level required for your upcoming exercise
  • mentally prepare for the task ahead
  • activate the pathways between the brain & muscles, and "rehearse" upcoming movements

A warm up shouldn't exhaust you. It should be a combination of large muscle movements, ideally using all of the muscles you intend to use in the main portion of your workout.

If you've got a full-body strength training session planned, a simple warm up could include:

  • 2-5 minutes walking, jogging, running stairs
  • 30 seconds of light push ups (from the knees for most women in warm up phase; you don't want to strain at this point)
  • 30 seconds of bodyweight squats
  • 30 seconds of jumping jacks

If you've got a cardio session planned—let's assume it's the average walk, jog, bike ride or rollerblade—your warm up could involve:

  • 2-5 minutes doing your chosen cardio at a slow, calm pace
  • 30 seconds of bodyweight squats
  • 30 seconds of calf raises
  • 30 seconds of walking lunges

What does a warm up not include? Stretching. Well, that's not entirely true. A dynamic stretch, like a  leg swing, sun salutation, or the caterpillar walk-out featured to the right, is a fantastic way to move through a large range of motion (this means allowing your joints to open and close, e.g., elbow or knee, or rotate, e.g., shoulder or hip, fully and to the utmost of each direction, smoothly and generally in large motions).

A static stretch, like a forward bend or doorway chest stretch, is best reserved for the end of your workout. In fact, several studies document the fact that static stretching does not help the body prepare for a workout and can even inhibit your ability to effectively do powerful movements, like jump squats or sprints. Stretching is important but it does not a warm up make.

Think of your warm up as a rehearsal for the upcoming workout and you'll find there are tons of ways to warm up creatively. Just a few more ideas to get your warm up creative juices flowing:

  • step ups on a stair
  • push ups on a stair
  • calf raises
  • shoulder circles
  • single leg hops
  • double leg hops
  • high knees (in place or traveling)
  • butt kicks (in place or traveling)
  • backward lunges
  • backward jogging

You'll know you're warmed up when you get that sense, warm up haters, that you're through the worst of it and have the feeling that you are truly ready to go. You'll be warm, slightly sweaty, breathing a little heavier and you should feel generally numb and comfortable.

You could also be drunk. When in doubt, ask yourself, Did I just (a) perform several minutes of effective, large movements to prepare myself for exercise; or (b) ingest alcohol?

If the answer is (a), you're ready to work out!


Simple Exercises for Your Body and Heart

A Healthy Heart is an Active Heart

Simple Exercises for Your Body and Heart

You know that old saying Use it or lose it? It’s actually pretty true when it comes to several things: your sex life, your memory, your remote, and your heart. Your heart is made of special smooth muscle tissue and, like the muscles of your arms, legs and torso, your heart can be strengthened by exercise. It can also be weakened by neglect.

Did you know that more women die of heart disease and stroke than any other disease? It's true! But, did you also know that women can reduce their risk of heart disease by up to 80% through lifestyle changes and health improvements?  

That's pretty amazing, if you ask me. 

Don’t let your heart wither away when simple workouts (combined with good nutrition) are all that’s standing between you and a long life of annoying your adult children the way you’re entitled to. Here are a few of my favourite at-home exercises to challenge your muscles and heart at the same time.

Warm up with some light jumping jacks, stairs or a jump rope for 5 minutes. Then, perform one set (10-20 reps) of each of the following for 2-4 circuits. These exercises use several large muscles at the same time, upping your heart rate and giving you some aerobic training at the same time as strength, if you complete them efficiently and with few breaks.

Caterpillar Push Up. Begin standing, feet hip-width or wider. Bend over and crawl on hands to push-up position. Inhale as you lower into push up, then exhale to press up. Crawl hands back to legs & return to standing. Keep legs as straight as possible and abs contracted throughout. Repeat.


Jump Squat. Begin standing, feet hip-width and arms at sides or crossed on chest. Squat, then quickly jump explosively into the air as high as possible. Land back in squat position, instantly bending knees & pushing bum back behind you, then jump immediately again.


Bent Over Row & Kickback. Begin in bent-over position with torso almost parallel to floor and arms holding dumbbells. Squeeze shoulder blades together as you row elbows up toward ceiling; pause, then extend arms into "kickback" position, squeezing triceps on back of upper arm. Pause, then lower & repeat.


Over-the-Shoulder Lunge. Begin with feet hip-width, hands clasped overhead. Step left foot behind you into split position and lower left knee toward floor into a lunge. Pause at the bottom of the lunge and twist back and shoulders slightly to look back over right shoulder (the same side as your front leg). Squeeze your bum and step back to starting position. Alternate legs & twisting side.


Want an extra challenge? Skip or do jumping jacks for 30-60 seconds between each exercise! On a day when you don't have much time, do just one set of each exercise.

Combine the above, which provides a total body workout, with this simple and energizing at-home cardio workout or your own favourite—jogging, cycling, dancing, speedwalking—for 30 minutes 3-6 days per week. Do both on one day or alternate between strength and cardiovascular training on separate days.

YMC and Becel want you to stop putting yourself last and start putting your health first. Click here to find personal stories, health tips and nutritious recipes to help you heart your heart.