So I’ve had a few questions recently about warming up, whether it’s necessary and how to structure a warm up. In this blog I’m going to look at what a warm up is, whether you need one and how to structure one.
The purpose of a warm up is to prepare your body for the exercise session. Rather than jumping in at full intensity, you are easing your body and mind into the session and getting yourself ready for what is to come. As such, the focus of your warm up will depend on what the content of your main session is going to be.
A good warm up helps to prevent injury by loosening up the joints that you are going to use, raising your pulse and body temperature, and getting more blood to the muscles. I always think that a good warm up helps you to mentally prepare for the main session as it can be overwhelming skip straight to the main session.
So Who needs to Warm Up?
The short answer to this is everybody. Everybody needs to do some form of warm up although the type and duration of the warm up is going to vary from person to person.
One of the factors that will affect your warm up is your fitness level. The fitter you are, the quicker you can probably warm up and the reverse is true, so if you are unfit or new to exercise, then you should spend longer preparing your body for the session ahead.
Unfortunately, age is also a factor that affects the length of your warm up. Generally, the older you are, the longer that you should spend on your warm up. Older adults could take up to 20 minutes to warm up. Personally, I have noticed that now that I am in my mid 30’s a 1 minute warm up just isn’t going to cut it. In my teens I often used to get away with this (I used to take ages to get dressed so I always missed the warm up for hockey), but now I would suffer for it.
Other factors to consider are the temperature, if it is colder then it will take longer to warm up than if it is warmer, the intensity of the main session so the higher the intensity the longer the warm up needs to be (so minute HIIT sessions require a long warm up) and the content of your main session. If you are planning a leg day, then you should concentrate on warming up your lower body and it always takes me longer to warm up my lower body.
Despite what you may be thinking, you shouldn’t just launch straight into stretching. First of all, you should do some mobility work and any spinal mobility work should be performed first. Personally, I start any warm up with head rotations and then the pilates roll down. Other mobility exercises such as arm rotations maybe carried out while you are on the second part of the warm up: the pulse raiser.
The CV machines in the gym are ideal for the pulse raiser although you don’t have to use them. You should do some form of cardiovascular exercise that uses big muscle groups but that doesn’t need too much from you in terms of range of movement (i.e. you aren’t having to go into deep knee bends). You should start off slowly and then build up so that out of a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being you are a hot sweaty mess to can’t to anymore and 1 being that you are practically asleep, you are a 3-4. This section is going to take between 5-10 minutes depending on the factors above. Personally, I like to go on the cross-trainer for about 7 minutes as it uses your whole body and I increase the resistance every two minutes.
Only after you have raised your pulse should you stretch. Now there are different types of stretching but if you are reading this then I’m going to assume that you are not a high-level athlete where your ability to perform to your maximum in the training session is important. As such, you don’t have to worry about whether you should do dynamic stretches or static stretches (I might write a post on this another day), just stretch and hold those stretches for between 6-10 seconds. Bear in mind what you are going to be working that day, if you are doing a lower body session then concentrate on the lower body, if you are doing an upper body session then obviously concentrate on upper body.
Finally, and this is something that I did not realise until I did my gym instructor qualification, is that after your stretching you should get back on the CV equipment and raise your pulse again. Again, you should be gradually increasing your pulse again to get it back up to where it was at the end of your pulse raiser (this should only take between 3-5 minutes).
So there it is! At this point you will be ready to hit your session hard! I know that this seems like a lot and initially you would think that it would take you a lot of time but some of the steps can be combined, i.e. you could do the mobility work on the treadmill or bike, you could also do some of the stretches on there. As you get used to this it will get quicker and it is a component of your fitness regime that does require a bit of time.
How do you like to warm up? Do you find that this has changed over time?
For many people, just the idea of setting foot in a gym is terrifying. Some people think that they are too overweight to workout in public (not true) and other people worry that they are going to make a fool of themselves (who cares if you do?!).
One of the things that new gym-goers worry about is the unwritten set of rules that more established gym-goers adhere to…gym etiquette. In this blog, I’m going to talk about that so that you have more confidence when you are making those first steps into the gym.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
The first piece of advice that I’m going to give you starts before you’ve even set foot in the gym…wear inappropriate clothing. By appropriate I mean practical, so wear trainers rather than brogues and make sure that your kit isn’t too revealing. Obviously, you should be comfortable and if you want to wear a crop top that’s absolutely fine (whether or not you are lean and toned). However, do ensure that your top isn’t too low and that you aren’t flashing. On this same note, if you are wearing shorts, you should make sure that your bum isn’t hanging out when you bend over (they don’t even have to be that short to have that issue – trust me!).
Wipe down the Equipment Make sure that you wipe down the equipment after you use it, it’s really gross if you don’t! This is something that is starting to slide in a lot of gyms which is just horrible! I don’t want to sit in your sweat and I’m sure that you don’t want to sit in mine so let’s agree not to follow this unhygienic trend. All gyms provide paper towel, or if they’re a bit fancy antibacterial wipes, so make use of them! If you’re going to get really sweaty, then take a sweat towel. You can use this to wipe yourself down as well as the equipment.
Tidy up after Yourself Basically, this is the adult equivalent of putting your toys away after you have finished using them. Whatever you have used, be it dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, a mat put them away when you have finished with them. Unlike your mum, it is not the gym staff’s job to put your kit away and leaving equipment all over the gym causes a tripping hazard for other users. Even more frustrating is not being able to find equipment because it has been abandoned somewhere.
Also remember that just because you can lift something doesn’t mean that everybody else can. By not taking the plates of the smith machine you could be rendering it unusable for another person…be kind people! Even if the next user is capable of lifting your weights, they don’t want to spend 5 minutes of their workout time taking your plates off a barbell.
Be Friendly This should go without saying, but it’s important so I’ll say it anyway…play nicely. If somebody smiles at you, smile back, if somebody says “hello”, then say “hello” back. Let’s make the gym a supportive, positive environment because let’s face it, we’re all in it together. You never know what it has taken somebody to get to the gym that day and you never really know how anxious somebody is about going to the gym.
If somebody asks you for help, then help them if you can and if you can’t point them in the direction of a friendly gym instructor. Remember that the chances are that you will need help one day so treat others how you would like to be treated.
Don’t be an Equipment Hog At certain times of the day, and all day in January, the gym can be a busy place. If you are at the gym when it is busy then don’t grab lots of different weights, kettlebells and whatever else you may need for that day’s workout. Even if you do circuits, people are going to resent you if you hog multiple pieces of kit. There are plenty of workouts that you can do with one kettlebell, one barbell or one set of weights. If the gym is quiet, then, by all means, feel free to take more equipment but just be mindful of other people.
Share Nicely Basically, if somebody asks you if they can work in, they are asking you whether they can use the equipment that you are using while you are on your rest period. Let people do this, the chances are that the next time you’re in you’ll say hello to one another and from there blossoms a beautiful friendship…or a least there’s another friendly face in the gym. I’ve often shared the bench press and I’m always happy because I get a spotter out of it.
Give People Space As humans, we like our personal space. We feel uncomfortable if this is invaded so in so far as it is possible, keep your distance from people. Obviously, this can be difficult in a busy gym but be mindful of this and do your best.
Avoid walking in between another person and the Mirror The mirrors are there for a reason, well maybe two reasons if you count peacocking, to check your form! If you stand between somebody and the mirror then you stop them from being able to check that they are doing the exercise safely. They are not going to thank you for it, it’s incredibly frustrating if you are using the mirrors for anything other than posing and checking your make up.
So I think that those are the main points, is there anything that you would add to the list?