I used to view warming up as a boring obstacle before my workout could begin. I’ve had to entirely change my thinking around this in the last few years.
I’ve come to realise that an effective warm up is the single biggest thing I can do to reduce the risk of injury. I’ll go even further than that. Remember, being consistent is probably the biggest factor in getting results. Injuries cause inconsistency. So therefore, an effective warm up is in fact the single biggest thing I can do to get results.
As with most learning and growth, it takes time and several iterations for things to click into place. This has definitely been the case for me. My thinking has shifted over a number of phases in the last few years.
It started with seeing it as unnecessary and not warming up at all. Why take effort away from the workout? I then had some personal training in my thirties which exposed me to better warm ups – but I still loathed doing them and didn’t understand the value.
I then found Crossfit, where warm ups were built into the session. I did them, but I had a ‘go through the motions’ type of attitude towards them. Just give me the handstand push ups already!
When I left Crossfit, I started working with a personal trainer (Jamie). He helped me get clear on my goals and the best way of achieving them. He now creates all of my sessions and programming. Working with Jamie has helped educate me on why warming up was so important and how to structure it. This was the biggest singular shift in thinking for me. I understood things better. I started to be much more consistent and intentional with my warm ups. I started to even like doing them – well, sometimes. That said, I still didn’t quite make the connection between just how important it was for reducing the risk of injury – and therefore my results.
And then I got injured at the beginning of this year. Leading up to that, I had my best 6 months of training ever, with great results. It’s taken me the best part of five months to get back to a place where I can train consistently again. This has given me a lot of time to reflect on why I got injured and how I can reduce the risk of it happening again. That’s when things started to REALLY click. Warming up was a significant factor in all of this.
And that brings me to today. My warm ups are long and well designed. I approach them with a lot of intention. I never rush or skip them. I like doing them – almost always. I don’t see them as something I do before the workout. They are part of the workout.
That’s a million miles from where I started. I’ve had to have a fundamental shift in mindset.
One thing that’s been helpful is to approach it with an ‘athlete mindset’. It sounds weird, but I literally imagine I’m an athlete. Now, on one hand that’s ludicrous – because I am very far from an athlete. But, when I think about it like that, I’m able to approach it with the respect it deserves. If I want my body to perform as well as it can, for as long as it can – I have to triple down on doing the work that will help me do that.
Let’s get even more specific and practical. Below is how my warm ups are structured and how they fit into the session.
They begin very general, and then finish being very specific. They mostly fit the following structure:
1. Gentle movement – this starts the process of getting warm, getting the heart rate up, and getting the blood moving [VERY GENERAL]
2. Foam rolling – this helps loosen tight soft tissue and further improve blood flow, with an emphasis on the movements that will follow [GENERAL / STARTING TO GET SPECIFIC]
3. Dynamic warm up – prepare my body for the session with dynamic movements that are related to the movements I will be doing under load. Here, I want to lengthen my range of motion and push my heart rate and breathing up nicely. [SPECIFIC]
4. Specific movements – practising the specific movements I’ll be doing in the workout. I’ll do this before each working set at a reduced load / rep range [VERY SPECIFIC]
And here’s how that looked exactly for one of my workouts earlier in the week:
- Walk – 20 mins [VERY GENERAL]
- Foam rolling – Calves, hamstrings, IT bands & lower back. A bit of hip stretching [GENERAL / STARTING TO GET SPECIFIC]
- Air bike: 5 mins at moderate pace (to get moving again after the foam rolling) [GENERAL / STARTING TO GET SPECIFIC]
- 3 sets of: [SPECIFIC]
– 10 Touch floor, then reach overhead
– 10 banded pull aparts
– 10 Scap push ups
– 10 glute bridges
– 10 PVC/banded passovers
- Landmine rows (couple of sets with just the olympic bar and half reps of workout sets)
After the above I was very warm. My heart rate was elevated, and my body felt nicely primed for the main workout (a mix of air bike, landmine rows and shoulder taps).
Now, I want to be clear, the above warm up lasted 45 mins. That’s excessive. To give some perspective, my actual workout was only 15 mins, followed by a 15 min cool down. But, right now, that’s appropriate for where I am in the journey of coming back from my injury.
Going forward, I expect my warm up will account for roughly a third of my session. So, I might expect to spend 30 mins warming up, 45 mins on the main workout, and 15 mins cooling down.
As you can tell, it’s been quite a process to arrive at where I am today with my warm ups. I’m super glad I arrived here though. I really understand why I’m warming up and how to do it right. And that’s helped me actually want to do it and be consistent with it.