Why do I Need to Warm-up?
Updated: Jul 28, 2019
"It's hot outside & I'm already sweaty so I don't need to warm-up."
"I'll warm-up during the workout."
"I'm saving it for the workout."
"It's a short workout so what's the point?"
"My ____ bothers me so I'm skipping the warm-up."
"I ran/ rowed when I got here so I'm good."
Have you ever said any of these things to yourself to justify not warming up? If you've been doing CrossFit for a while, it's easy to become complacent in the warm-ups because you've achieved a level of fitness that most people can't even fathom so some of the workouts can seem relatively easy on their face... but remember back to when you first started. Remember how sore you were? Remember how tight your muscles were and how immobile your joints were? Remember when you couldn't squat below parallel? These workouts are no less taxing on the body just because you've gained a higher level of fitness! ... and this goes for any physical activity, not just CrossFit and it becomes increasingly important when it's cold outside and as we get older.
I can lay down in the middle of the gym in July and get hot and sweaty... but does that mean I'm warmed up? There is a distinct difference from being HOT and being warmed up properly. Some of you know my cousin is a massage therapist. He's been doing it for nearly 20 years so when he talks about the body, I listen. The other week we were talking about warm-ups and he said the vast majority of people he treats for injury begin their description of the pain as, "I know I'm supposed to warm-up but I skipped it this time and now my _____ hurts." The LAST thing we want is for our athletes to be injured. We take this extremely serious. Injury is a part of ALL sports and no athlete is completely pain free all the time so the best way to avoid injury is to warm-up every time you come into the gym, so let's dive into the "why".
A proper warm up does a LOT more than just get you sweaty. It primes the Central Nervous System (CNS), elevates the heart rate (HR), mobilizes & stabilizes joints through an increasing range of motion (ROM) and increases intramuscular blood flow. These are all vital for a high level of performance and there's a lot of intelligence built into our warm-up progressions that you may not even be aware of. The right warm up begins general (the warm-up) and goes to specific (the Skill time). Think about our class structure... we start with a warm-up that includes positions and movements that strengthen and reinforce posture, increase mobility, and challenge joint stability. We then move on to the Skill where the movements are specific to the workout.
Because of the demands CrossFit places on our bodies, we include joint stabilization & soft tissue strengthening movements as well. This is why we do scap push-ups and scap pull-ups so often.. because the shoulder joints are commonly a weak link in most athletes. This is why we do pistols (one-legged squats) to a box.. because it helps isolate and stabilize the knee. This is why we do straight leg lunges... because most of us sit all day and have tight hip flexors that prevent us from squatting properly. This is why we do wrist mobility EVERY DAY.. because that's a small joint and we ask it to support tremendous loads and volumes of work.
Suffice it to say, you should consider the warm-up (and Skill portion for that matter) as part of your workout because it's crucial to your development, SAFETY and training.
Warm-ups should prime the lactate and nervous systems to prepare you for the demands of what's ahead. Ever watched a sprinter bouncing high into the air, perhaps even tucking their knees into their chest as they jump just before they get down in the starting blocks? What they're doing is priming their CNS. They're saying, "Hey legs, I'm about to ask you to deliver maximum power to the ground and I need you to wake up NOW, not 2 steps into the race cause if you lag, we lose."
Get moving and get loose, calm the nerves and get your mind right doing anything to increase your heart rate, break a sweat, and get some blood flow going. We put a warm-up on the board every week to help guide you and we understand if you have specific areas that need more attention so we encourage you to come in early to work on those problem areas, stay late to work on them and as always, ask a coach if you need help!
I'll leave you with the best analogy I can think of. You wouldn't (and couldn't) drive your car forever without rotating the tires and changing the oil. This is basic car maintenance to keep it running smoothly and perhaps more importantly, to AVOID costly repairs and down time. Basic body maintenance is no different! Take this approach into your training and you'll be a better all-around athlete, you'll move better and you'll help fight off old age and injury!