YES! You Absolutely Need to WARM UP!

sprint drill bWe just came off the Olympics in Rio. Think about our 100m athletes. How long do you think they warm-up before a race that lasts only 10 seconds? Can you believe about an hour! Even our marathon athletes will warm-up for 2-3 miles before their race! You would think with 26.2 miles, there would be more than enough time to ease into their race pace but nope, they understand they need to spend a couple miles getting their system prepped to race.

The body does not respond very well going from inactivity to intense activity. The cardio-vascular, respiratory, musculo-skeletal, and neurological and metabolic energy pathways need to be gradually stimulated in order to perform at an optimal level. You need to lubricate your joints, warm your muscles and connective tissue and slowly wake up your breathing and cardio systems. 

Muscles that are warm have a much better ability to extract and utilize oxygen to produce energy.  As muscles warm up, the enzyme activity level is increased.  This means that fats and sugars are broken down more rapidly, and more energy will be produced.  This will of course, enhance your performance.

On a personal level as a testimony to this concept, a few weeks ago, I arrived to run with my friends and realized I forgot my running shoes. Yes, crazy to show up for a run without your running shoes but that’s another story! So I rushed home to get them while my friends started the run and when I returned I immediately got out of the car and tried to run as fast as I could to catch them. I finally caught them but since I had worked so hard with no warm-up, the rest of the run hurt so bad and I found myself struggling and having to walk often. This past weekend, I completed the exact same run with my friends but this time with a proper warm-up and it felt fabulous. What a difference those initial few minutes made!

Most of us aren’t Olympic athletes and it will be unlikely that we’ll spend an hour warming up before our workouts and really don’t need to because our workouts won’t be at the same intensity. But at the very least, include a 6-12 minute low intensity warm-up before each workout.  Exercisers in their later years may need an even more extensive warm-up of approximately 15 minutes because our connective tissue is more rigid and tight. Think of it like a new car or new piece of equipment vs an old car or older, rustier piece of equipment…the older car is going to need a little more lube to function! So if you’re an aging exerciser, take a little more time to lube your joints and rev your system and your workouts will feel so much better!

kneedipb2So, for example, if you are going to go for a run, start with a 6 minute walk. Perform some dynamic range of motion movements through your hip, knee, ankle and feet to prep those areas for the pounding of running. If you’re going to cycle, warm-up in an easy gear and spin your legs. If you’re going skiing, start with easy green runs before you move to the Blue and Black Diamond Runs. If you are going to strength train, start with similar movements with minimal load or just your body weight. A warm-up and cool-down should generally involve the same workout activity but at a much lower intensity and at a low impact level.

It’s also important to cool down appropriately post-workout. Your body does not respond very well going from intense activity to complete rest.  Your heart, lungs, muscles, joints, and energy systems require a gradual cool-down to avoid blood pooling in the lower extremities, dizziness and to assist in the recovery process. So again, finish with a walk or an easier gear to allow your body to cool down.

And remember that a deep stretch should not happen prior to a workout because your muscle and connective tissue isn’t warm enough. Deep stretching and muscle release should happen post workout after your cool down but a warm-up should be dynamic and in motion.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details. 


GFRFC2015Join us for the….
The 10th Annual Girlfriends Run for a Cure is a Quarter Marathon (6.55 miles) and a Half Marathon (13.1 miles) designed specifically for women to get together to do something good for themselves and to help support a very important women’s cause.

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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