Often, during workouts, there’s a big part of us that looks forward to the end of the exercise, when we can relax and cool down, enjoying the rewards of pushing our bodies to new limits and in new ways. While the rest after a workout is definitely a benefit, don’t let yourself get distracted from the cool-down’s pivotal predecessor—the warm-up!
When engaging in any sort of physical activity, we often talk about “warming up” and many physical instructors will coach you through a warm-up of some sort before getting into the actual planned routine. Why is this? What’s so important about the warm-up that it seems to precede almost any major workout session?
Let’s consider first what happens to the body when we warm it up. First off, you start taking in more oxygen as your breathing gets a bit faster and deeper. At the same time, blood flow increases, and both of these processes start delivering more nutrients and oxygen to your cells. This primes your body for more intense physical activity, versus just leaping into the stress and shocking your system into action.
Warming up also mentally prepares you for what’s to come. It helps you be more alert and focused on the activity or session, encouraging more proper form and intensity. Also, muscles and joints that have been warmed up are far less prone to injuries, such as tearing or sprains, and can help you get into positions or perform moves you might otherwise not feel comfortable doing from a stand-still.
Based on this, taking five to ten minutes for a pre-class warm-up is obviously of benefit. And the great thing is, a warm-up can take many forms. It can be as simple as a vigorous walk, a few minutes on a stationary bike, lifting some light weights, or some other light aerobics. Anything that gets you moving and prepares you to engage in more strengthening activities will do.
So next time you start going through a pre-class warm-up, don’t worry that it’s a waste of time; instead, take confidence that a proper warm-up is an investment in a better overall Pilates experience.