There is a great deal of talk in the fitness industry both as participants and as instructors about the importance of a proper warm up and stretching prior to working out. When I teach a class or work with a client, I always ensure that my students slowly begin their workouts gradually building their heart rates before jumping into their workouts whether cardio or strength training. If I can build dynamic stretching into the warm up, even better.
Dynamic stretching is working the muscles though range of motion movements continually moving the muscles rather than moving into a stretch position on holding the stretch which is static stretching. The concept behind dynamic stretching is that when your muscles are cold, as in prior to exercise you may risk injury to the muscle by holding or forcing a stretch that the body isn't ready for. When you have warmed up and have blood flowing to the muscles, you can statically hold the stretch and work to lengthening and relaxing the muscle.
The most beneficial time to do static stretching is at the end of your workout when the muscles are warm to reduce muscle tension that may have occurred during the workout, potentially reducing delayed muscle tension or soreness. Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to the workout, not only does it help increase blood flow to the muscles allowing the body to gradually increase the range of muscle movement, dynamic stretching also begins the production of synovial fluid in the joints. Synovial fluid is important to help support the joints through any type of activity but is very important in high impact exercises.
For myself, my workout of choice is running. I love it, it's quick, simple, the end of my driveway is my gym. That being said, I do not always warm up. For years I would wake up, throw on my running clothes, drink a glass of water and head out the door. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor I know how tough that is on my body to begin my workout so close to waking and without proper warm up. But I would create a million excuses specially time related why I could warm up.
Over the past year I have had health issues that have offset may ability to exercise and over the past six months I have been slowly working to regain my fitness. Running and yoga have been the two key components of my exercise routine during this time. I love my early morning runs but noticed my usual habit of literally running out the door wasn't working so I decided to actually put into practice what I teach others. Warm up before running. I went through a variation of legs swings, pretending to walk over logs and so on before my run but the flow didn't feel right. Then it hit me... yoga.
I've been doing sun salutations with a low lunge before not only my runs but all of my workouts and have found it to be one of the best ways to warm up for both running and strength training. The flow of sun salutations is almost meditative and allows me to tie my breathing into my movements. Subconsciously I carry the association of breathing into my running and I've noticed less muscle soreness and a more relaxed gait in my running.
Here is my sun salutation flow...
Standing at the top of your mat, hands in prayer take a few deep breaths focussing on balancing evenly on both feet.
Inhale sweep the arms up.
Exhale forward fold.
Inhale come halfway up.
Exhale fold forward, bending the knees if needed.
Inhale step the left foot back.
Inhale sweep the arms forward stretching from the knee to the tips of the fingers.
Exhale bring both hands to the mat and step back into plank. Lower the whole body to the mat, dropping to the knees if needed.
Inhale come up into cobra.
Exhale to downward facing dog, peddling out the heels.
Inhale step the right foot forward.
Exhale drop the left knee to the mat.
Inhale sweep the arms overhead.
Exhale step the left foot beside the right in forward fold.
Inhale come partway up.
Exhale forward fold.
Inhale come all the way up sweeping the arms overhead.
Exhale hand to prayer.
Repeat on the other side.
I usually do both sides at least twice and here is my favourite place to practise.