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Warm Up Before Exercising (1)

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD, MyDiet™ Sports Nutrition and Workout Specialist -

What do you normally do when you wake up and get out of bed in the morning? Start running? We all know the importance of exercising, but do you know that warming up is as important? Make it a part of your routine. We are giving you the know-how here.

Most of us get up, yawn, stretch our arms and legs, and slowly start the day. Later, we gradually start moving faster.  Exercising has to be something very similar.

Warming up literally warms the body for the activity we are about to perform. This activity can be walking slowly or running 10 miles. The intensity of the activity you will carry out doesn't matter, just make sure that warming up is always part of your routine.

Warming up before exercising offers many benefits. First, warming up loosens the muscles so you don't feel rigid or tight. Second, it increases heart rate, preparing the body for physical exercise. Third, it accelerates nerve impulses and improves reflexes, sending oxygenated blood to the muscles. Finally, while increasing joint flexibility and mobility, warming up reduces the risk of injuries, especially in connective tissues such as tendons.

Warming up must last 5 to 20 minutes (in colder climates, you might need a little bit more time to warm your very cold muscles). You can combine gentle jogging, massage and soft stretching to achieve the perfect warm up. Warming up must be hard enough to increase heart rate and to prepare the muscles you will use during the activity. For example, if you are going to run for five minutes at a slow rhythm, you can warm up by starting to jog very slowly, or you can walk for a minute or two before starting to run.

Stretching also has to be part of the warm up routine. You have to stretch your muscles after warm up exercises (like walking). When you stretch a muscle, get to the point where you feel a slight tension. If it hurts, it means you are stretching a specific zone too much, so you should lessen the tension. Keep stretching for about 10 to 30 seconds and don't bounce. Remember to stretch opposing muscle sets one after the other. For example, stretch your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and then stretch your hamstrings (back thigh muscles). Always breathe while stretching.

Following, we have provided stretching options for some of the most important muscle sets:

  • Quadriceps (front thigh muscles):Stand up and support yourself by leaning on a wall or chair for balance. Bend your right knee back while holding your right ankle with your right hand. Make sure you keep your knee close to your body while you bring the heel to your bottom. You should feel slight tension in the front thigh muscle. Hold this position for about 15 seconds, and then repeat on your left side. Don't stretch your knee too much.
  • Hamstring (back thigh muscles):Stand up, with your legs open to shoulder width, your knees slightly bent and your toes pointing to the front. Bend over forward and hold your ankles with your hands. You should feel a slight tension in your back thigh muscles. Hold this position for about 15 seconds.
  • Biceps (front part of the arm):This stretch can be performed standing up or sitting down. Extend your right arm to the front with your palm up. Take the fingers of your right hand with your left hand and stretch your right fingers slightly to the back and towards your body. You should feel slight tension on the underside of your arm. Hold this position for 15 seconds, and repeat on your left side.
  • Triceps (back part of the arm):This stretch can be performed standing up or sitting down. Lower your chin towards your chest and put your right arm over your head, palm to the front. Bend your elbow and take your right hand to the back side of your neck. Now, the palm of your hand faces your body. Put your left arm over your head, and with your left hand, hold your arm just below your elbow. Gently pull your right arm towards your left side. You will feel slight tension on the back part of your right arm. Hold this position for 15 seconds, and repeat it on your left side.
  • Calf (back part of the leg below the knee):Stand up, about three feet away from a wall, with your feet separated at shoulder width and flat on the floor. Put your hands on the wall, with your arms straight for support. Bend your hips towards the front and bend your knees slightly to stretch your calves.
  • Hips, shoulders and back lumbar zone:Stand up, about three feet away from a wall, and put your hands on the wall with your arms straight for support. Put your feet together by balancing with the back part of your heels, hands on the wall, and arms straight to form a jackknife shape with your body. This stretches your hips, shoulders and back lumbar zone.
  • Hips and back lumbar zone:Sitting down with your legs crossed, lift your right leg up and cross it over your left leg, which should remain bent. Bring your right leg to your chest and bend your torso looking over your right shoulder. Change sides and repeat, now looking over your left shoulder.

If you follow these steps and do a good warm up, the exercise session will be easier and more efficient. You might even feel so good that you want to continue exercising longer than usual!

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