Warm It Up

By Katie, 7:54 am

Before I get into today’s topic, let me say that I am amazed and inspired by the passion many of you expressed through your comments on my last post about “wearing disordered eating on your sleeve.” If you haven’t yet checked out the conversation (or contributed!) I encourage you to do so; many people shared some very insightful views!

But let’s proceed to the topic at hand…

While we may fantasize about having an unlimited time frame for exercise, the reality for most of us is that our workouts are usually squeezed in somewhere between our jobs, relationships, children, home responsibilities, and hobbies. Working out is merely one in a long list of commitments and activities.

So it’s not surprising that many people take a “get-in-and-get-out” approach, skimping on the parts that seem like luxuries rather than necessities…parts like warming up. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of this. :oops:


I’ve been twirling around my thoughts on the importance of warming up ever since Dave sent me this New York Times article on the subject. It’s worth a full read if you’re interested in the topic, but let me give you a quick summary:

While warming up is important in theory – the idea being that muscles contract more efficiently once they’ve already been contracting – there’s little quality research indicating that it actually improves performance. One exercise researcher from the fitness site getinwaveshape is quoted in the article saying, “It is not known whether warming up is of benefit, of potential harm, or having no effect on an individual’s performance.”

And even if we agree that warming up is helpful, there’s really no consensus on what kind or how much is necessary. Some athletes warm up for 10 minutes, others for 50. Some do very light exercises, others do intense ones. The article’s author writes that most athletes – and also us regular, moderate exercisers – base our warm-ups (or lack thereof) “more on trial and error than on science.”

I’m not a scientist or a researcher, so all I can speak from is my personal experience. When I go for a run, my warm-up generally consists of 5 minutes or so of brisk walking or easy jogging. Some days it might take me a little longer to find my “groove,” so I just go at a comfortable pace until I feel ready to speed it up or push it more.

I will say that on those very busy days when I try to maximize my time by jumping full-force into my run, I’m usually miserable. :-( The first few minutes feel so difficult that it’s discouraging. My muscles just don’t feel ready.

Science or no science, I’ve found that doing a short, light warm-up helps me to set the tone for a good workout. So I try to make it happen as often as possible, even when my tiny exercise window is crammed in between earning a salary, maintaining an inhabitable living space, being a wife/daughter/sister/friend, and – of course – blogging. :-)

Do you warm up before exercise? Why or why not? What does your warm-up routine consist of?

24 Responses to “Warm It Up”

  1. I’m so lame about warming up because I always feel like I don’t have the time for it (stretching afterwards often gets the same half-hearted treatment, unfortunately)…but I always have a better, more natural-feeling workout if I get the warm-up in beforehand. Thanks for this post! It’s a great reminder of the importance of easing our bodies into vigorous activity.

  2. Simply Life says:

    Sadly, I usually just stretch after a longer run but nothing beforehand – oops!

  3. I’m the same way–I kind of have to MAKE myself warm up for a few minutes, but if I don’t, I can tell a HUGE difference, especially when I’m running.

  4. I’ve done both – I used to warm up just with a vvvvv short walk and a few minutes of stretches. THEN I read you shouldn’t stretch before exercise, so I stopped. Recently I’ve started again, and I’ve noticed an improvement, so I think stretching is good :)

  5. christina says:

    when i’m on the treadmill, i walk at a 4.0 pace for just a couple minutes before i start running. i definitely do some type of cardio before i do strength training. but i’m awwwwwwwful at cooling down and stretching afterward. i just want to be done by then!

  6. Nicole, RD says:

    I usually start walking for a few minutes before I start running. I do also cool down a bit after my run with some walking. Stretching, however…never. I am terrible :( I occasionally stretch when I am warming up for hockey, but that’s more so to socialize with my teammates than benefit from the stretches. Bad habits!!

  7. I am not the best at warming up. I usually walk for about 5 minutes and then get going. But it works for me. I ALWAYS cool down though and stretch afterwards. I feel like that is more benficial to me!

  8. Arielle says:

    I walk briskly for 5 minutes before I run and I do 5 minutes of moderate jumping rope (I’m actually skipping it, not jumping) before my strength routine. The only time I don’t warm up is before the elliptical. I just jump right in. It doesn’t seem to have a negative effect so I’ll just keep doing it this way :]

  9. Jess says:

    Before a run, I typically just go right into it. I start out maybe a tad slower than my steady pace, but not really a warm up. I definitely warm down/cool down though. I’ve read over and over how crucial that is. I try to stretch at least 20 minutes.

  10. i don’t usually warm up, but i do try to stretch for about 5 minutes before doing anything, and ALWAYS stretch for 5-10 minutes afterwards!

  11. I haven’t run in a long time, but when I’m on the elliptical, I start my workout right away, but take it slowly for five to 10 minutes so I don’t shock my body. :) I also like to do about 10 minutes on the elliptical before I do a Pilates class at my gym. It helps warm up my muscles and just stretches me out a bit.

    I’ve heard several TV trainers say that it’s not good to stretch before your workout, so a walk, doing light squats or jumping jacks (or something along these lines) is better to traditional stretches. But afterwards it’s key to stretch.

  12. I do warm up before running with foam rolling and stretching. I don’t do much of a warm up for doing cardio on machines though!

  13. I’m terrible when it comes to warming up. I usually just walk for 1 minute before breaking out into a run. I’m too impatient! :P

  14. Robyn says:

    When I was training with a group every saturday we always started with a little warm up. We do it in PT too so maybe there’s something to it. It takes me a bit of walking to get to the location where I do my outdoor runs so I consider that my warm up. Gym I just start cold.

  15. I´m living in the last floor of our appartement tower and so my warm- up is walking down all the stairway and then I start running immediately. In my workout classes I always do a short warm up and mobilizing before starting the workout ( but I don´t like trainer who expand their warm up when doing a strenghtening lesson )

  16. Thanks for stopping my my blog :)
    To answer your question about raw agave, I don’t really think it’s any better for your than regular agave (I mean, they are both not good when you eat a lot). The raw MAY have a few more nutrients, but not enough to make a huge difference.

  17. I’m bad about warming up too but I always try to at least do a little 5 minute warm up. It’s hard not to just “cut to the chase” though and skip it!

  18. I usually walk for 5-10 minutes to get my legs warmed up. I also do a ton of ankle rolls to stretch out my shins before I run. I have heard that holding stretches can hinder your performance on a run. But honestly, I’m more worried about actually finishing the races. I’d rather be safe and prevent injuries than go hard too quickly.

  19. i always stretch before and after. especially after. but before i do hamstring stretched…forward bends to get the back of my legs…quick squats.. and some calf exercises.. oh and i swing my arms around a bit..and wiggle to loosen all the joints up :)

    xoxo <3

  20. I try to do a 5 minute warm up whenever I workout. However, sometimes for the sake of time, I skip it. Like you said, the beginning of a workout can be GRUELING if the muscles aren’t ready!

    I am terrible about stretching though! And I often pay for it the next day!

  21. Jessica Lee says:

    OMG I’m terrible at this too. AND at stretching post workout. I “kind of” warm up by doing 5-10 min on the tread though. And before I lift, I just do some quick arm circles. I need to be more diligent though…

  22. Shawnee says:

    I usually warm up with a brisk walk about 5 minutes. Other than that I don’t really warm up.

  23. I don’t warm up before working out. Sometimes maybe I’ll go a tad bit easier at first, or run a tad bit slower, but I get into the groove pretty quickly. I actually don’t find any use for a warm-up when I’m just doing something for exercise. On the other hand, before races, I always warm up. I think it’s extremely important to get things moving and get my heart rate up before I get on that starting line, so I don’t waste time at the beginning of the race trying to do the same thing.

    I also try to always cool down. If I’m running, I’ll run to the end of the street (instead of stopping at my house) and walk back…or on the treadmill, I make sure to walk a lap or two after I finish running. I feel much better when I do this than when I stop immediately. I’m awful about stretching though…

  24. Kylie says:

    I´m living in the last floor of our appartement tower and so my warm- up is walking down all the stairway and then I start running immediately. In my workout classes I always do a short warm up and mobilizing before starting the workout ( but I don´t like trainer who expand their warm up when doing a strenghtening lesson )

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