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Fire: Don't Skip the Warm Up

Posted by Joseph Anderson

Don’t Skip the Warm Up

Warming up may be the most important and understated part of an individual’s exercise session.  Whether it’s a visit to the weight room or a multi-day climbing trip, the quality of your warm up will determine the quality of your training and fitness and could be a defining factor in your long term skill in your favorite sport.
So what’s a warm up?  In its simplest form, a warm up is achieved after 20 minutes of light cardiovascular activity.  This elevates your core temperature, increases blood flow and allows for effective muscle recruitment and joint mobility.  Now if you are aiming for optimal performance in your sport as well as gains from your workout, consider a warm up that can be broken up into 3 parts:  (1) systemic warm up, (2) stretch, and (3) sport specific warm up.
Systemic – A light 20 minutes of cardio…This gives your whole body a chance to release adrenaline into the blood stream; increases heart rate; lubricates joints; facilitates enzyme activity;  loosens muscle fibers allowing for elasticity, effective contractions, increased metabolism, and glycogen breakdown;  and increased nerve impulse conduction.  Be it the stair machine or hiking to the base of a crag, you are aiming for a conversational pace in which you just break a sweat during the systemic phase of the warm up.  That’s it.
Stretch – Stretching is a pretty loose term. While stretching, you are aiming careful, intentional movements which will bring you to a state of ultimate health and fitness and limit injury. Good stretching leads to flexible muscles, which in turn means more efficient and numerous fiber recruitments in the muscles.  It also leads to flushing out stagnant toxins which effects both physical and emotional health.  You may use stretches from a former coach, martial arts master or yoga class.  The most important thing is that you stretch after your cardio warm up.  When you stretch, use good form and key into the muscles.   Breathe into the stretches and don’t push too hard.
Sport Specific – Now that you’ve stretched muscles, greased joints, increased blood flow, you should consider a more specific transition into a great session.  For me, there is no better example than rock climbing.  To begin the climbing session, start on a climb with at least 1 or 2 grades less than what you are hoping to climb that day.  This gives the blood, muscle fibers and joints a chance to remember what to do and chases out any leftover lactic acid build up.  What is also important is that it warms your mind up.  Use this first climb or boulder problem of the day to shed the baggage of the rest of your life and tune in to your climbing.
A three part warm-up will improve the effectiveness of training and should be done before every training session. This is fundamental to a safe and healthy practice.