By Gill Stewart at
Are you somebody who embraces the warm up exercises at the beginning of a walk or more likely to be grumbling ‘get on with it’ under your breath? YES, our Instructors know that some people just can’t see the point of what seems like a lot of twiddling, circling and stamping BUT there are actually several good reasons as to why, at NWUK, we always start our classes with them.
There is actually a proven process that will prepare a body for exercise, paying attention to the joints, muscles and cardiovascular system. Here’s why …………..
REASON ONE – Lighting your internal fire!
If you try to push cold muscles you are at risk of injuring them and if you don’t allow your body to heat up gently, you simply won’t get the best out of it for the whole walk which in turn will reduce the potential exercise benefits such as weight loss and tone. Your Instructor is trained to gently increase your heart rate in order to literally ignite your cardiovascular system and wake everything up effectively. As well as being advisable for your heart, lungs and blood pressure, this increase of blood flow will raise the core temperature and make muscles, ligaments and joints more relaxed and ready to work
REASON TWO – Joint Mobilisation.
Our joints are surrounded by soft tissue called the synovial membrane, which produces a fluid that acts a bit like oil in an engine, allowing your bones to move past one another more smoothly. Exercise in general encourages circulation of the fluid but before you start putting any pressure on the body its essential to first ease the joints into action and easing out any stiffness. This is where the ‘circling’ comes in – your Instructor is gently taking the joints through their range of movement and preparing them for the walk ahead. This will not only make you more comfortable on the walk but help prevent injury too. In fact good ankle mobility contributes to better balance and fewer falls so don’t skip this vital element of your class. Hip and knee mobility also improves comfort, performance and more crucially, reduces the risk of injury – so go on… enjoy the wiggling drills and feel your body thank you for it!
REASON THREE – Flexibility
Once your core temperature has been raised and the muscles and ligaments are more pliable, your Instructor will incorporate actions that mirror the movements likely to be contained in the walk or session. This type of stretching activity is known as dynamic stretching and is very different from the type of long cool down stretches used for conditioning at the end of a walk. Flexibility is the key to good mobility in older age and that exercising without including it will actually make muscles shorter, tighter and more prone to damage.
Once your Instructor has fully prepared you for the start of your walk, they will set off at a gradual pace and ensure that you are fully ready to go before tackling any strenuous elements such as steep hills, workout drills or faster pace ‘gear’ work. You will also notice that they start to ease off before the end of the session too in order to prepare you for the cool down which we will cover in the next NWUK newsletter.
So next time you are willing the Instructor to stop ‘walking on the spot’ and get out on those trails, maybe spare a thought for how they are there to help you get results, avoid injury and learn how preparing your body well is a crucial part of being active..