Month 5: Stretching and warm-ups

Getting back into exercise after easing off for a while means you should be extra careful not to dive straight in and overdo it.

Most people I know (including myself) go really hard at it afterwards because they feel they should catch up on all that exercise they missed in between. But whether you’ve taken a break like I had to, or you just find it hard to stay motivated and end up lapsing from time to time, when you’re ready to get going again, ease back in slowly; overdoing it in the first week or so will increase your risk of injury, and cause some aches and pains that’ll just put you off again. If it feels like hard work you won’t want to do it. The reason I’ve kept to this is because it’s a manageable lifestyle change, not a quick fix that’s hard to sustain.

I like to make sure I do proper warm-ups and stretches. (Actually, this applies whether I’ve eased off a bit or not – warming up and stretching is always important.)

Warm up

When I first get up in the morning, I tend to feel a bit stiff, my ankles and right hip take some time to wake up and get moving, so, as nuts as it sounds, I use my morning routine as a pre-warm up, warm up.

I get my coffee on (crucial first step for me), stick some music on and empty the dishwasher, tidy up, put things away from the night before, wander out with the bin and recycling, anything that starts me moving without really thinking about it. After about ten minutes of doing stuff that needs doing anyway, I’m ready for a proper warm up

Obviously I’m going to include my usual mantra of walking, anywhere and everywhere. But sometimes you need to get your heart going a bit faster, so try these out:

  • Stand at the bottom of your stairs (or by your decking or back step). Facing the step, step up, left foot first, followed by your right foot, and back down left foot first, followed by the right foot. Repeat 20 times. Do the same again, leading with the right foot. To get your heart pumping, you need to do it quite quickly, hold on to the banister if this helps keep you steady.
  • If you are ok doing squats, then do 20 fast squats as a warm up.
  • What about gentle jogging or marching on the spot? If marching, get those knees as high up as you can, and get your arms moving too.
  • If you planning a good arm workout, an extra warm up on your arms isn’t going to do any harm. Stand straight bring your arms to your chest in ‘boxing’ pose and punch out forwards and across your body crating a slight twist at your waist. Repeat, at least 20 times with each arm (alternating). If you want to make it a bit harder, use the resistance bands from Exercise 2: wrap the band around your back and hold one end in each hand. See Ex3 for this with and without the resistance bands.

 

I got so into the warm ups that if I didn’t have time for a full workout, I started doing only the warm ups. They became a warm up to my walk up and down the stairs at work. I found they set me up to walk even faster. It became an upward spiral.

I was enjoying getting my heart going faster so much I started wanting more and more cardiovascular (CV) stuff and  discovered Joe Wickes (The Body Coach).

On a weekend when I had more time, or if I got up just 15 minutes earlier than usual I started doing his low impact Hiit routine. Find it here on YouTube

He has lost of other hiit workouts on there, do whichever one takes your fancy. I started with this low impact one because it puts less strain on my knees.

Stretching

After I’ve warmed up I always make sure I do some stretches, even if I know I won’t be doing an actual workout. Someone told me years ago that animals stretch all their muscles daily, and that in itself keeps them fit. I have no idea if it’s true, but I choose to believe it anyway. If you’ve ever watched a dog or a cat wake up, you will notice they always have a good long stretch before they do anything else. You can’t beat a natural instinct I reckon.

For stretches, I can’t do any better than referring you to the whole body stretching routine on SportScience.co website http://www.sportsscience.co/flexibility/whole-body-stretching-routine/

I pretty much always do 4-8 and 13-21, but you should do whichever ones fit with the workout you plan to do. Even better if you can find time to do all of them.

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