Warm up, a mandatory act?
The warm up for a training or competition is unfortunately often seen as a mandatory act, more or less detached from the training. While the warm up should be seen as a full part of the training. It is a first and important step for the exercises and training phase that will follow. Through a proper warm up the training effect is increased, a peak performance can be achieved and the risk of overload is minimized.
A decent warm up means more than just warming your muscles. If it is just about warmth, a warm bath could be sufficient. A warm up is about getting both mentally and physically in the right zone to perform as optimal as possible. The trick is to do a warm up with the right intensity and with pleasure and relaxation, so that you feel like doing the core activity from top to bottom. A good warm up consists of the following four elements:
- Create the right mindset (increase focus out of relaxation and pleasure). Creating the right mindset is primarily a mental warm up and also has a social character. With some practice you can perform this part of the warm-up without physical activity.
- Activate nervous system (for example, pacing the heart rate with repeated efforts). The best way to activate your nervous system is through a combination of mental and physical activity which is motoric challenging.
- Create warmth in your body (improved circulation of blood, improved transport of energy and waste products, improved working of your heat-dissipation mechanisms, improved muscle elasticity). Creating warmth in your body is primarily a physical activity.
- Increase mobility (ensuring that the movements of the core activity can be performed with as little obstruction as possible). Increasing mobility is again a combination of physical and mental activity.
When it relates to the physical and mental aspects in relation to the warm-up, this concerns the perception of the activity. There is, of course, no real separation between mind and body. A lot of processes in your body change through physical activity. It is a complex system of brain activity, neurotransmitters, hormone production, energy systems and so on. The the exact explanation of these changes is far beyond the scope of this article.
The warm up is a full part of a training or competition and must also be approached in this way. In an ideal world, warm up is geared to the type of training or competition that you are going to do. For example, for an important football match, it is not enough to cycle warm for half an hour. But also less extreme, for a cycling training the requirements for a warm up are different than for a reactivity training (plyometrics, reactive position play).
A lot of athletes have their own way of warm up and preparation. Personal preference for certain elements in the warm up usually has to do with creating the right mind set. But bare in mind that the higher the intensity of the competition or training, the more important the warm up. It is important you learn to be flexible with your warm up. You are not always in the right place or have sufficient time to do exactly the warm up you are most used to do. Keeping the right mindset and focus is one of the most important aspects of a good warm up. In the end, in all circumstances you strive for a maximum preparation with minimal energy, both physical en mental.