Do I really need to warm up before stretching?
Short answer: yes.
One main reason so many of us don’t get in the movement we planned is that we hateeeee the warmup. It can feel tedious, boring, and other words to describe why we may hate it. But a warm-up is essential for physiological and even psychological reasons, and it doesn’t have to be boring! These are the big reasons for warming up:
The Blood is Getting Warmer
When we start warming up our blood temperature rises, which means the oxygen that is bound to the hemoglobin weakens, so the oxygen can flow more freely through the now dilated blood vessels, which means less stress on the heart, and more blood to your working muscles.
Our Joints get Lubed Up
You know those days where you get out of bed and your joints sound like Rice Krispies? Oh, we do not want that happening when we’re working out. Once we start moving our bodies produce more synovial fluid, which acts as a lubrication for our joints so the cartilage and bones don’t crack, creak, and crash into each other, and slide more easily against one another.
Temperature Rising = Muscles Preparing = Higher Range of Motion
Cold muscles while stretching? Ouch. With all this blood flowing and our joints lubed up, our muscles, in turn, get warmer too, which means less risk of injury! A warm body means our muscles won’t easily get overstretched, and be able to contract more forcefully and relax faster, which is great for speed and strength.
Sometimes the day wasn’t great, or we woke up feeling terrible. No matter what if you’re in a bad mood before a workout, the likelihood of you focusing on the negative during your workout is a lot higher. A warmup gives you time to really put that to the side, mentally prepare, and increase your focus.
Some general rules to creating a warm-up best for you:
- Make it fun! Dance it out, walk-in place, do some jumping jacks. Anything that will get your full body warm counts! And remember, it is a warm-up, not a you-must-be-sweating-and-super-tired-up, it can stay low intensity.
- Have it at least 5-10 minutes long (that’s just 3-4 songs), depending on how long your workout will be, the longer the workout the longer the warm-up!
- Everyone says don’t do static stretches during your warm-up, but this has been debunked! Personally, I still prefer dynamic stretches (think arm circles), but as long as you don’t hold your static stretch for longer than 60 seconds, it’s totally ok to add in, just don’t push yourself as far as you normally would since your muscles are still cold.
- Consider what you’ll be doing during your workout and tailor your warm-up to that – if you’re working your flexibility then you can do lots of neck rolls, hip circles, and spinal mobility, but say if it’s leg day I still suggest a full-body warm-up but a focus on your leg muscles to get you prepared!