This winter, whether you’re determined to workout outside even when it’s freezing or want to stick to the comfort of your at-home gym (aka your living room, bedroom or garage), there’s one important step before you start: your warmup.
How to warm up
While “warming up” might incite thoughts of reheating leftovers in the microwave, it also refers to getting your body ready for exercise.
“When you warm up, you’re working on improving blood flow to muscles and warming up muscle tissue,” says Putnam. “You usually want to do some form of low-intensity work that prepares you for the exercise you’re going to do.”
For instance, if you’re planning on going for a run, a low-intensity exercise that would properly warm you up is a slow jog. If you’re doing a strength workout such as weightlifting or Pilates, start with some jumping jacks to increase the blood flow to your muscles.
Other low-intensity warmups include going for a quick walk, pedaling on a bike, doing a few pushups or moving through some yoga poses.
Think of your warmup activity as movement that sightly elevates your heart rate and gets you working up a light sweat (as my favorite workout instructor calls it, “that glazed doughnut look”).
“Aim to warm up for around five to 10 minutes before you start your workout,” adds Putnam.
The dos and don’ts of stretching
If you were taught to do static stretches — where you sit and hold a stretch for what feels like minutes on end — before working out, try dynamic stretching instead.
“Static stretches are not helpful before you work out,” says Putnam. “Dynamic stretching is better for warming up because it’s a stretch that involves motion.”
Three dynamic stretches that she suggests incorporating into your warmup routine:
Hamstring. To loosen up the back of your legs, stand with your feet on the ground and hinge at your hips, slowly bending over and then standing back up. Your legs should be straight, but don’t lock your knees.