Newton’s First Law of Motion says an object at rest stays at rest. Maybe not surprisingly, this also applies to your muscles. Every time you go out to participate in an event – whether it’s cold out or not – your muscles are starting from a sedentary state. They’re not prepared for you to push them. That’s when injuries and strains occur, and that’s why you always need to warm up your muscles, including prior to events. No matter how long you’ve trained beforehand, warming up is a requirement.
Warming Up For Your Event
Not all warm-ups are created equal.
If you recall from our previous blog about muscle isolation, the purpose of warm-up exercises is to prepare your muscles for the intense activity you’re about to perform. If you’re about to go for a long distance run, you are going to be using different muscles than a gymnast performing a routine on the uneven bars or a tennis player preparing for a match.
The best way to warm up for your particular activity is to do a light version of it. If you’re going for a long distance run, run a few light laps or do a brisk walk; stretch out the leg muscles you’re going to use. If you swim, do a few lengths in the pool at a slower pace. And if you participate in any ball-sports, toss the ball around for a bit with a teammate.
The body takes an average of about six minutes to completely warm up. So during your warmup exercises, make sure you’re deliberately increasing the intensity as you go. And don’t stop after a couple of minutes from boredom. It can be easy to get distracted after a minute or two and jump right into your activity. Don’t do that. If you do, an injury is just around the corner. Try to set aside 6-10 minutes for a full, pre-activity warm up.
What Happens if You Don’t Warm Up
Any muscle strain or tear that occurs during a game or practice means you are going to be benched for a while. Depending on the severity of the damage, you could be out from a week to several months. That’s months – sitting on the sidelines, watching others do what you should be doing. And you’re probably going to need some help getting that muscle or ligament back to its original state, either through surgery, physical therapy, or massage therapy.
When you sustain an injury to a muscle, the body begins (almost immediately) to repair itself through scar tissue. Scar tissue is made up of collagen fibers which stretch across damaged muscles and hardens within a 48-hour window of time. And because scar tissue is so rigid, that muscle no longer has its full range of motion, limiting your ability to perform as you did before the injury.
To fix this, you have to break down those collagen fibers. If it comes to that, a trained massage therapist, like here at MG Sports Massage Therapy, can help you do that. Afterward, they work on realigning those fibers and restoring the muscle.
The Benefits of a Proper Warm Up
Besides not having to deal with unnecessary pain, warming up properly before each and every activity comes with many benefits.
Muscles quite literally warm up.
When the temperature in your muscles increases, they contract and relax quicker, which means you lower your risk of overstretching something, leading to an injury. And it means more power.
Muscle elasticity increases.
This happens when the muscle temperature rises and thus reduces the chances of a tear. When your muscles stretch better, you have heightened speed and strength.
It warms and stretches the joints.
When your joints are properly prepared, your range of motion improves. They can stretch to their fullest without becoming damaged.
The body can cool down faster.
Warming up also triggers the process in your body that cools it down if it becomes overheated (sweating, increased breathing, etc.). When you thoroughly ready your muscles and joints before activity, you reduce the effect heat can have on your body.
Mental focus increases as well.
That may not sound like it has anything to do with your muscles, but it actually has everything to do with them. When you’re focused on the activity before you, your body becomes more relaxed. And when your muscles are in a relaxed state, there’s less of a chance of overstretching or tearing – and that’s fewer post-injury treatments.
Of course, every once in a while, you’re going to show up late to the game or run out of time to go through your warmup, and you’re going to strain or pull something. When that happens, we’re here for you.