Dara Duff-Bergeron: Sweaty Mummy


Why Warm Up

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