Do you warm up?
I have never been a big huge fan of "warming up" and I usually get chastised by the people I work out with and by my clients that I work out; they always want a "warm up" period and I just jump in and go. Honestly, I am usually going for a run with my dogs before work, or have some sort of time constraint, so I just hop to it. I never felt there was an issue with it, but other people made me feel super guilty about it. The theory is that heated (or warmed) muscles are more flexible and ready to adapt to the work out and allow you to perform better...but that theory may have been blown to bits! But, I feel that I am now supported in skipping the warm ups! A recent study from the Journal of Applied Physiology, showed that warm ups are really not helpful and actually prevent you from getting a hard workout.
Why are your workouts thwarted?
Well, highly trained male cyclists volunteered to be studied and they either performed their normal warm up or a much shorter version followed by their regular workouts. It turns out that the cyclists warm ups were 20 minutes in length and they got to around 95% of their maximal heart rate. Their muscles were electrically stimulated before (cold) and after their warm ups; it was found that the muscles contracted much more forcefully when the muscles were cold. The muscles were over exerted and tired when the athletes finished their warm ups.
The same findings were present in Olympic skaters when training before the 2010 Olympics. In trying to warm up their muscles, these athletes were actually truly fatiguing them, thus the athletes could not optimally perform.
If the athletes warmed up for 15 minutes reaching only 65% of their maximal heart rate, their muscles contracted still forcefully and didn't seem over-fatigued. The problem is that most people think they are warming up, and really they are overexerting themselves, and then push themselves further, which allows for a risk of injury. Ironic right? People think they are preventing injury by warming up, but really they are stressing their muscles by pushing themselves too much.
The scientists were unable to draw a conclusion wether warm ups were really even necessary, but they couldn't find anything that swayed them either way. The lead researcher didn't see a need, but had no solid proof for or against that statement. So, since there is no data showing me I have to warm up, I am going to keep on keeping on and you all can warm up if you want, but I am just going to hop right into my runs and let my muscles fatigue at their own will.
If you have any injuries related to running, you may want to keep with a short, easy warm up and then assess for discomfort or anything that doesn't feel right, and stop if need be! For those of us who run/workout because we love it and not because we are training for the Olympics, I think this is all cause for personal choice, but if you are new to working out, you may want a warm up to get your heart and lungs ready. As well, if you have any illnesses and you are new to working out, you should get approval from your HCP before starting any new regimen. But if you are healthy and feel up to it, hop right in and get the workout you need!
Yours in Good Health