If you’re like most people with a vested interest in getting fit, you will know the importance of warming up properly.
Lisa Bergart, Dynamix Fitness owner and personal trainer from Toronto, warns if you miss your warm up you increase the risk of injury, and will experience excessive breathlessness and a less efficient workout.
But, there are more pre-training misdemeanors to side-step if you want to avoid these problems – and, ultimately, get the best out of yourself on the track.
Lisa explains the top five things you should never do before exercise.
1. DON’T SKIP THE WARM UP
It may seem obvious, but many people fail to warm up properly before exercise. The result?
“Your body will be sluggish, your heart rate will be low, muscles, ligaments and tendons will be tight and your energy systems won’t be able to keep up with the additional load,” explains Lisa.
TRY THIS INSTEAD >> Try warming up gradually, incorporating dynamic movements using the primary muscle groups that will be utilized in that session. “During a warm up, you want to increase your body temperature and blood supply to your muscles, therefore sending more oxygen and nutrients to your energy systems. This also activates your muscle fibers and loosens up your joints.”
2. DON’T PERFORM STATIC STRETCHING
Your muscles need to be supple before undertaking high intensity workouts such as running. Static stretching, (positioning your body to hold a muscle stationary, like holding your heel to your bottom for a quad stretch) does not increase the blood flow or deliver warmth to your muscle prior to the exercise load. In fact, research shows these sorts of static stretches may decrease your running economy.
TRY THIS INSTEAD >> Try to incorporate dynamic stretching into your warm up, where you mimic the movements of the exercises to come in the session, but at a lower intensity.
3. DON’T OVEREATE
Aside from feeling heavy and sluggish during training, the act of eating stimulates the digestive system which draws energy, says Lisa. “Overeating, especially foods high in fat, protein and fiber, will overwork this system by requiring it to draw valuable blood supply and energy sources to function correctly. This can leave you feeling sluggish and heavy, and potentially causing cramps.”
TRY THIS INSTEAD >> It’s best to eat at least 30 minutes before training and only small amounts. Low fat, low fiber choices are best, as well as fluids for hydration.
4. DON’T HAVE A LATE NIGHT
There’s no better way to sabotage your motivation for training than by having a late one the night before. Even worse is when you’ve had a few alcoholic drinks and you wake up dehydrated before you’ve even hit the track. “What happens in your body when you consume alcohol is a bit like when you put petrol on a fire – it is consumed immediately; your body will try to metabolize the alcohol straight away. This leaves other fats and sugars to be metabolized with less efficiency, potentially causing weight gain if sustained over long periods,” says Lisa.
TRY THIS INSTEAD >> According to the Canadian Sleep Health Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours sleep a night. So, if you plan on training at 6am, that means getting to bed between 8.30pm and 10.30pm the night before.
5. DON’T LET STRESS BUILD UP
Both stress and exercise release cortisol – a hormone that acts to determine your energy needs and from what sources the energy comes from such as fats, carbohydrates or proteins. “When you have an increased heart rate and blood supply, as well as stressors present, you reduce your ability to draw on these fuel sources when you work out,” says Lisa.
TRY THIS INSTEAD >> Try to focus on time management, getting plenty of rest, eating well and speaking with friends and family if you feel stressed or anxious. If you find yourself withdrawing from the things you love, like training, because you feel down, speak with your doctor.