Why a Strong Warm-Up Is SO Critical (+ a Simple, Effective One for Your Next Race)
It’s not very sexy, and it earns you very few bragging rights, but the warm-up certainly packs a big punch when it comes to boosting performance and preventing injuries.
Think of your body as a big tractor in the barn. That pretty, sleek tractor has a big, powerful motor inside with lots of moving parts. Sure, you could fire up that tractor and quickly race it out of the barn to mow the field and drag huge trees up the mountain, but will it perform at its highest level if you followed that game plan?
If you were quick to force your tractor to work aggressively, would the risk of damaging the engine, belts, and gears be higher?
Very much so.
Why Should You Warm Up?
A warm-up allows for muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, blood vessels, the heart, lungs, and your brain to “prepare for battle.” Specifically, this preparation phase allows these important tissues to do the following:
- Elevate their temperature.
- Increase their blood flow.
- Enhance their ability to work with other body systems.
WATCH: Life-Changing Tips From the Ultimate Brain Hacker
What, Specifically, Do You Need to Warm Up?
- Your Brain/Nerves: Your computer needs time to turn on. Your cranial hard drive, also known as your brain, also needs ample time — not just coffee — to “wake up.” Think of the value for a Spartan racer to have a well-prepared brain coordinating vital skills such as eye focus, balance, crawling, jumping, rolling, climbing, and breathing.
- Your Upper Extremity: Having shoulders, elbows, wrists, and even thumbs with full range of motions and strength can be the difference between failing an early obstacle and having the best race of your life.
- Your Core/Trunk: Sure, your stomach might feel better after a visit to the bathroom before the race, but that doesn’t mean your core muscles — front, sides, and back — are ready to be tested with the heavy Bucket Carry 10 minutes later.
- Your Lower Extremity: Your horses are about to be beat up, scraped, twisted, loaded, and abused. The muscles, tendons, and joints of your hips, knees, ankles, and feet have the toughest jobs during your workout/race, so showing them some love before the battle is only fair.
How to Warm Up the Right Way
Below is a simple warm-up — it should take between 8-10 minutes — that will prepare you for a workout or a race. Despite its simplicity, it's extremely effective.
Implementing the factors and body parts noted above, this Spartan warm-up will increase the temperature, blood flow, and coordination of the brain, as well as your upper extremity, core, and lower extremity.
Standing on one foot, do five single-arm circles, both forward and backward. It’s a great range builder for the shoulders, and a balance builder for the brain.
Knee Hikes With Hop
Run in place, slowly, with a single-leg hop between each knee raise. Do five per leg.
Do 10 crunches to wake up the abs and stretch the low back.
A 10- to 20-yard crawl is just what your neck, shoulders, wrists, and hips need to prepare for a trek in the mud.
This is a powerful yoga pose and one of my all-time favorites. Click here for more information and add it to your daily routine. Take 3-5 breaths.
Five reps is all you need.
Perform a single-leg squat, and hold it stable for 10 seconds. Don’t go deep enough to stress your quads. Your brain will thank you for locking in your needed balance receptors. Perform two reps per leg.
Deep Breaths With Shoulders Back
Open those massive lungs and stretch your burpee-ready chest. Five deep breaths is just what the doctor ordered.
You’re about to voluntarily embark on a challenging journey, which few are physically or mentally tough enough to do. Be grateful for your many blessings and enjoy this never-ending journey.
Related Link: This 5-Step Warm-Up Will Lock in a Great Workout
Do NOT Do This...
- A High-Intensity Warm-Up: Warm-ups are easy and relaxing. Save the high intensity for the workout or race.
- A Chemical Warm-Up: Don’t mistake an energy drink or pre-race supplement as a warm-up.
- Stand Around: Have time to kill before the workout or race? Get off your feet and allow your legs to rest.
...But DEFINITELY Do This
- Just Add Water: Hydrate with water before, during, and after an intense workout or race. Think of it as a warm-up for your stomach, which will be more effective when absorbing fluids and calories during the event.
- Be Self-Sufficient: Keep your warm-up simple, with few props, so it can be done at home, in a gym, or in a muddy field in the middle of nowhere.
- Keep It Consistent: Considering the countless unknowns that inevitably follow the start of a Spartan race, it’s comforting to know that your warm-up routine is consistent and effective.
3 Additional Reminders to Keep in Mind
Have a Pain Plan
If you have an active injury, tweak your routine to properly prepare your injured body part for your rehab, workout, or race.
Tired of soft-tissue injuries? Once you master your warm-up, you significantly reduce the risk of muscle and tendon injuries.
A Plan for the Start Corral
When you get into the Spartan Race start corral, you can expect it to be awfully cramped. With your warm-up already completed prior to jumping the muddy entry wall, have a plan to stay loose in the corral. Calf stretches, toe touches, hops, and arm shakes are easy to do in the corral to keep your body warm and your blood moving as you wait for the fun to begin.