In Part 1, I looked at the physiological reasons why the first 5 minutes of exercise can feel so hard. Here in Part 2, I’m going to look at the warm up, and highlight its importance in helping the body to adapt to the progression from a resting state to exercise.
The Benefits of a Gradual Warmup
If the first 5- or 10-minutes feel like wading through mud, and you want to give up, then a longer and more gradual warmup will really help. I’ve written about the importance of a warmup in previous articles, particularly in relation to injury prevention, and taking that time to ease into an intense cardio session will pay dividends in terms of the overall experience.
By starting your workout at a comfortable pace and then gradually adding speed or intensity, you’ll avoid the discomfort of oxygen debt, and the rest of the workout will feel much more satisfying and effective.
Although these temporary physiological changes occur in anyone switching from being sedentary to activity, if you exercise regularly, the transition will happen faster and more seamlessly. But that’s not the only good thing that will happen; long-term physical changes, or adaptations, also occur in the bodies of regular exercisers. The heart muscle becomes stronger and able to pump more blood with each contraction, which results in a lower heart rate. Lung capacity and oxygen transfer also increase. Blood vessels become wider and more elastic, blood pressure decreases and new capillaries form. All of these changes lead to many long-term health benefits from regular exercise.
The Importance of Pushing Through
Next time you start to exercise and feel the discomfort of going out too hard or fast, visualise what’s occurring in your body, try to slow down your breathing, take your foot off the pedal a bit, but keep going. And, I would advocate taking it easy when you start your workout and use at least the first 5 minutes as an easy warmup, then gradually increase the pace, and settle into your workout as usual.
Hopefully, with these tips and more understanding of the physiology of a warmup, you will find that you start to look forward to your workout rather than dreading it.