5 Fitness Habits You Should Reconsider: Part 2

Last week we talked about five common mistakes in people’s exercise routines – Avoiding exercising all together due to sore muscles, ignoring severe pain, staying within your comfort zone, machine hopping without a plan and avoiding strength training. This week we add two more to this list:

Two More Common Mistakes: Skipping Warm-Up and Stretching

While you can get away with skipping the warm-up when you’re doing a low to moderate impact workouts, not warming up can easily lead to injury when you’re doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises, especially sprinting. The same applies for stretching, which we will discuss in just a moment.

Studies show it takes only 10-15 seconds of muscular contractions to raise your body temperature by 1o°C, and a proper warm-up should raise your body temperature by 1-2o°C (1.4-2.8°F). This is enough to cause sweating, and is really all that’s required in terms of warm-up. Bottom line – warm up with dynamic movements until your heart rate increases slightly and you feel you are about to break a sweat. Going through the motions of any exercise is sufficient to supply blood to the appropriate working muscles. Just a few repetitions is all you need to really warm-up the muscles; prolonged aerobic activity is not necessary and will zap valuable energy and time.

The following dynamic stretching routine is an example of what can be performed before your workout. Watch the video posted below to see a demonstration of the proper form of each exercise. This should take you 3-5 minutes tops and then you are ready to go!

  • power skips

  • bounding

  • plank

  • plank with reach

  • single leg bridge

  • plank with leg lift

  • sprint with deceleration

  • single leg hop

  • side shuffle to sprint

  • forward jog

  • backwards jog

  • carioca

  • carioca with knee drive

  • hurdle walk forward

  • hurdle walk backwards

  • scoops

  • quad pull and reach

  • super lunge

  • a skips

To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

There’s plenty of confusion to go around when it comes to stretching as well. As a general rule, it’s not critical to perform prolonged passive stretching before a workout, and in some cases it may even be contraindicated. (You do however want to loosen up and perform some of the exercise with a set of very light weight) For example, a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that prolonged passive static stretching (holding stretches for one minute) prior to lifting weights can actually make you feel weaker and less stable during your workout. The researchers concluded that prolonged stretching should be avoided prior to strength training, noting that the passive stretches may have impaired strength because of joint instability.

In other instances, such as when you’re doing high intensity sprinting exercises, prior stretching
is imperative, and should NOT be skipped. The major lower body stretches would be for the hip rotators, hamstrings and hip flexors – all to make your stride length more efficient. Most physical therapists will note that stretching is ideally done after your workout, when your muscles are nice and warm. You can go for longer stretches and really try to relax after the workout. Bottom Line - Before your workout you want to “loosen up”, after the workout, you want to maximize your flexibility.

Next we will finish with discussing what type of intensity you should use for use for your workout and some overall advice on how to make your routine the most effective.