the sacred practice of warm-up
As a (formerly militant) atheist, I do not use the word “sacred” lightly. Yet over the last couple of years, this is exactly what warm-up has become – a sacred practice, a ritual of movement.
For word junkies (I love you), ‘sacred’ can mean “of or relating to religion” – not this one, OR “entitled to reverence and respect” – definitely this one! Also, it can mean “inviolable”, or “highly valued and important”.
Warm-up is a strange animal, one that often gets the short end of the stick from you. We think we should do it, but we don’t. We skimp on it, as soon as we are even a little bit pressed for time.
A client told me once that she felt overwhelmed by her warm-up when she just started exercising. It felt hard. It made her sweat. Hell, it felt like a workout.
Well… it is. A warm-up IS part of your workout. It’s not optional foreplay, it is inseparable from the main performance.
Months later, same client reported that her warm-up felt easier now, too easy, in fact, and she wanted a harder one. I smiled as I listened to her speak.
Warm-ups are not meant to be easy or hard, they are just… there. As with any mindful practice, you may build up the habit of doing it over time. You may notice your own resistance decrease. However, it’s not supposed to be anything. It just is.
In the last couple of years, I started leaning into the opposite – when pressed for time, I slow down, and only do the warm-up routine. I also do the warm-up, just the warm-up, when coming back after an illness or an injury.
For the past year, I listened to these three songs at the beginning of every workout:
Chandelier by Sia
Dangerous by David Guetta
Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
Together they are about ten minutes, so I’d cycle through this playlist twice in a warm-up, and then move on to anything else.
You’d think that I would be sick of those songs by now, but I can’t even hear the music any more. Instead, the familiar soundtrack acts as an environmental cue. Notice none of these are death metal, psych-me-up meathead songs – they are chill and dancy.
Go through the same movements – again and again. The body recognizes familiar patterns, the nervous system relaxes into movement.
Ahhhh… yes, that’s what we are doing. I remember this.
That being said, a year is a long time. Few months ago, I have asked you for recommendations for my 2017 warm-up playlist. Dozens of songs came flooding in, and after listening to a bunch, here is what I settled on:
The Greatest by Sia
Bloodstream by Ed Sheeran
Here With Me by Dido
Intro by The xx
Revolusion by Elliphant
This one runs about eighteen minutes, and I usually have to start it again, and listen to the first couple of songs the second time.
Here’s to another year of warm-ups.
P.S. For those curious, my warm-up is based on one of the Precision Nutrition’s training programs, and includes sit-to-stands, Turkish get-ups, bear crawls, and breathing drills. Three times over.