Physio Jottings by Darren Kovilpillai
Ever tried starting a car in cold weather? It will spit and cough before slowly sputtering into life. One’s body is similar. You need to get it warmed up sufficiently before it can perform in its optimal capacity. We have to prepare ourselves little by little and warm up slowly to avoid hurting ourselves and causing serious injury. We need to increase the heart and respiratory rate which will in turn increase blood flow to the muscles. A warmed body with loose lubricated joints allows us to execute any planned physical activity with ease.
For a person who is a beginner, read, one who hardly exercises, (changing channels on the telly does not count) the moment you do any physical activity, you are going to hurt yourself. I’ve seen this a lot mostly at the start of every year with the common mantra “new year, new me” more like “new year, new injuries”. It’s important to warm up your body with light cardio. It could be a 10-minute fast walk on a treadmill or up and down stairs, maybe a few jumping jacks or even running on the spot with knee ups to get the ticker going.
Your muscle needs time to ready itself before getting its flex on. When your muscles are not prepped the chances of you pulling or snapping something is high. Stretch your muscle, foam roll them, put them through the paces slowly, and gradually load or introduce them to endurance. You cannot have a gung ho attitude and just jump right in with all guns blazing. Something has to give and it will usually be your joints or muscles.
When it comes to professional athletes, the warm up routine differs slightly. A more sport specific warm up is required to perform at an optimal level. Your muscles need to be primed and ready to do the task at hand, whether it’s for tri-athletes, footballers or swimmers. During competition, your body will be switching through the gears and your muscle and body need to be sufficiently prepared to carry this out. Many a time young athletes assume their bodies are impervious to injury (blame it on the foolishness of youth) and do not sufficiently warm up. Sadly they are the ones who will be turning up at my clinic the next day with aches or even, pulled muscles. As a physiotherapist I have seen young athletes push themselves over the limit to perform better but end up injuring themselves in the process. This happens because they have neglected one key ingredient which is so very necessary before indulging in any sport or exercise – a good warm up.