An increase in temperatures means an increase in outdoor jogging, recreational sports, and running around with your kids at the park. But jumping into activities with cold muscles can lead to a higher rate of injury.
The weekend warrior
“Warming up is one of the easiest things to overlook, especially for the recreational athlete,” says Blake Daney, MD, a Kettering Health Network orthopedic surgeon fellowship-trained in sports medicine. “We see an increased rate of injury when people skip their warmup and jump into activity cold.”
Dr. Daney says that he sees warmup-related muscle injuries commonly in people who are “weekend warriors.”
“It’s easy for people to sit at a desk job all week, then jump into a game of pickup basketball on the weekend,” he says. “But because the body hasn’t been doing activity consistently, it isn’t ready to undergo the force you’re about to put it through.”
And warming up isn’t only important for injury prevention. Dr. Daney also notes that not warming up properly can have a direct link to struggling to meet performance goals.
Goals of warming up
Warming up before activity should help to accomplish a couple objectives. First, the warmup should mentally prepare you for the activity at hand.
“Professional athletes always do some sort of warmup, both to prevent injury and improve performance,” Dr. Daney shares. “There’s also a key component of getting psychologically ready for the activity.”
Second, any warmup should help you do just that—warm up. “There are many different ways to warm up, but a good rule of thumb is to aim to break a light sweat,” says Dr. Daney. “When you increase your body temperature, you’ll get more oxygen to the muscles that need it. If the muscles are warm before jumping into activity, we see lower rates of injury.”
Components of the warmup
How long should a warmup last? It comes down to the activity you’re going to be participating in and your physical condition. “For someone in good physical shape, it might take a little longer to break a sweat,” says Dr. Daney. In general, warmups last around five to 10 minutes. However, looking for a light sweat is a more reliable indicator than time.
Dr. Daney also notes that the most effective warmups focus on dynamic stretching and functional movements: “For example, if you’re going to the gym for a leg workout, focus on dynamic lower body movements like bodyweight squats.”
Incorporating static stretches into a warmup can be helpful, but static movements should not make up the entire warmup.
Better focus = better performance
Dr. Daney shares that many people overlook the value of mentally preparing for physical activity. “Often, people just jump into their workout right away,” he says. “But the warmup is a time to slow down and focus on what you’re about to do. Ultimately, this helps the athlete. When you get your mind focused to perform better, you’ll be more in tune with your body and less likely to get injured.”
Try these moves for a dynamic warmup
Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a seasoned athlete, the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team at Kettering Health Network can help you prevent injury and stay in the game. Visit ketteringhealth.org/sports-medicine to learn more.