Dear Lifehacker I enjoy going to the gym, and recently I've been trying to upgrade my warm up. But I'm wondering: how close to the workout does the warm up have to be? Am I OK spending some time warming up at home and then heading to the gym, or will the effect wear off? Thanks, Fighting Fit
Warm up picture from Shutterstock
It depends on how far away from the gym you live. As the name implies, the entire point of this pre-exercise ritual is to warm up your muscles which allows blood and oxygen to flow through your body more easily. It also helps to stretch the muscles and connective tissue, making them more limber.
If you wait around too long after doing your warm up, your muscles will start to cool down again which means the effort will be largely wasted. This is especially true when exercising in colder temperatures such as early morning and night -- the time that most people tend to hit the gym.
This is supported by a recent scientific study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. To test the effects of elapsed time after warm-up on subsequent exercise performance, researchers measured the heart rate, lactate, esophageal and skin temperatures of professional runners and rowers who waited 30 minutes to complete a time trial after warming up.
They found that the 30-minute delay had a negative effect on overall performance:
We conclude that longer elapsed time following warm-up, combined with cold air exposure, results in potentially important reductions in exercise performance. Athletes should consider the appropriate timing of warm-up. In addition, performance may be preserved by maintaining skin and core temperatures following a warm-up, via clothing or other means.
With that said, you should still be able to warm up at home so long as you get to the gym quickly and remain suitably warm during the trip (this may require rugging up in sweatpants and a hoodie). As a general rule of thumb, you want to start your exercise routine at least ten minutes after a good warm up. Do the maths yourself to see if that's feasible from your location.
Also be sure to do passive stretching after your workout do aide recovery and promote muscle growth. If any gym junkie readers have additional warm up tips or alternate theories to share, let us know in the comments section below.
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