Before undergoing any activity it is always advised to warm-up the muscles to be involved, but how do we properly and safely warm-up? Hint: Not all stretching is safe for warming-up!
I was a bit reluctant to discuss this topic particularly when it comes to running as for some people, stretching (regardless of type) is warm-up! There were quite a few races before that enlisted notable personalities to lead runners in static (in-place or stationary) stretching routines before the event, and for the lack of available information and the influence of “celebrities,” some people came to accept this to be the norm.
Back in 2010 when I completed Basic Instructor’s Course (a.k.a. crash course on Human Kinetics) from Gold’s Gym Institute, one of the lessons that I vividly remember to this day is to never stretch a cold muscle. Our muscles are like rubber bands, and if you stretch it while it’s cold, you could break it! I assumed that many fitness personalities knew about this so I always end up scratching my head whenever a “celebrity” comes onstage before a race claiming to lead the warm-up, but they’re actually doing static stretching. It’s not that stretching per se is bad—it’s just that not all stretching routines are safe for warm-ups, particularly static stretching. A study even shows that it may even weaken the muscles and impair performance..
Fortunately I met Coach Xhi Tabalan, Race Director of Karera Lakas Pilipinas, and it seemed that we’re in the same page with this issue. But she took it a step further by preparing a list of warm-up routines (“preparatory movements” in her vocabulary) that should help runners in particular to “warm-up” safely. Here’s her list:
- Whole body flexion to extension
- Happy jumps to star jumps
- Tower lunges to torso twists
- Jogging in place, barefoot
- High knees
- Butt kicks
- Sumo squats
- Handwalk to plank
- Plank to shoulder touches
- “Downward facing dog”
It was just unfortunate that I wasn’t able to take a video or even a photo of each of these routines as Coach Xhi was demonstrating them (and I don’t recall the exact movements of all of the above to recreate them, sorry). Each routine is to be done eight (8) counts maximum, but you’d probably hear your heart racing before you reach that count!
Personally, I don’t do static stretching whenever I warm-up, but I do it after my activity as part of my cool-down. I believe that cool-downs are just as important as warm-ups, but it should be done after the activity—while your muscles are still warm. As I mentioned before, our muscles are like rubber bands: try stretching one that just came from a cool place and from a warm one: which one stretches well? Warm-ups prepares your muscles, cool-downs (via stretching) keeps them flexible and returns them to normal state for recovery.
- Stretching before workout may weaken muscles, impair athletes: studies | National Post
- Warming up – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia