In the last post, “Building Blocks of Fitness”, I introduced a new series on becoming physically fit. As Scouts, it is our duty to be prepared in body for everyday service, for challenging adventures, and for any emergency which may arise. Because of that, I have determined to build good, healthy habits which will last me for the rest of my life.
One of those habits include setting aside time during the week to exercise. If the exercise is strenuous in any way, though, damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments can occur more easily if the muscles are not warmed up. The warm-up is, in some ways, the most important part of the exercise. It should be done before every exercise and should consist of: Stretching, Joint Mobility, and Light Exercise.
The exercises done in warming up have many benefits by themselves. Regular stretching increases the flexibility of the muscles and increases circulation. Stretching helps prevent injury when running, jumping, and doing other similar activities; it also increases agility and reach for climbing. Stretching regularly is an important part of staying physically fit.
Joint Mobility increases the strength and flexibility of the ligaments and tendons around the joints. It ensures that the joints are well-lubricated and there is is good circulation. Injuries around the joints such as the back, the knees, and the ankles are some of the most common physical injuries. A good deal of these could be prevented if proper preventative exercise was done to insure the health of the joints.
Finally, Light Exercise gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing to all parts of the body. This revs up the systems of the body that provide oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. It is also very effective at getting you in the mental state to exercise.
Personally, I like to warm up every morning as I get out of bed. Whether this is followed by a serious exercise or not depends upon my schedule, but just making a habit of doing this warm-up has many benefits. It prepares my body for the day ahead. If some emergency happens, I'm not going to have time to stretch and warm up before I help. If I tear a tendon during an emergency situation, I could put myself and others in danger. In addition, the morning warm-up helps increase my circulation and freshens me up for the day.
There are many different types of stretches you can do in your warm up routine. The most important thing is to cover all of your major muscle groups. You need to especially concentrate on the legs, as they are the most prone to injury. Don't overlook the calf and quad stretches!
Make of point of stretching your back as well. The core is the most flexible part of the body, and therefore many different muscles are needed to support it. Stretch your sides and your stomach as well. Finally, stretch your arms and your neck.
Hold each stretch for a good period of time. Concentrate on breathing deeply and evenly. As you exhale, focus on relaxing the muscle being stretched. You should not feel tight or tense. Never stretch to the point of pain, otherwise you risk the very injury you are trying to prevent. Take it by gentle stages; you won't become as flexible as a gymnast overnight. It takes time, but make sure you keep it up regularly, at least five times a week if you can.
Here is an exercise that is often overlooked. Nevertheless, it serves an important function. Joint rotation increases the blood supply to the muscles around to joints. It strengthens the ligaments and tendons, and it increases the lubrication fluid of your joints.
Fortunately, these exercises are really easy. All you have to do is rotate the joints gently, working out to their fullest extension. Arm rotations are a good example of this: you rotate your arm in a large circle, gently reaching the fullest rotation of the shoulder joint.
Rotate your neck, your arms/shoulders, your wrists, your back, your hips, your knees, and your ankles. Doing this everyday is a great habit to develop and will help prevent or mitigate stiff joints.
Finally, you need to get the blood really flowing with some light, full body exercise. Jumping jacks are great examples of this. They use many different muscles groups and are not stressful. Fast walking is another good one. Depending upon your level of strength, you can mix in some light body-weight exercises with your warm-up: a few pushups, situps, etc..
This type of exercise is definitely beneficial on its own. It doesn't do much to build strength, but it increases respiration and circulation. If you are very out of shape, it is good to get into the habit of these warm-ups before moving on to something more intense.
Sample Warm Ups
I think everyone should build their own, customized, warm-up routine, but it is certainly helpful to get some ideas to start with. I found a handful of cool exercises routines in old magazines published by Boys' Life. I've included them below.
(Click on a thumbnail to view a larger version of the image.)
Call To Action
Take about five minutes right now and come up with a quick, 15-minute warm-up routine you intend upon doing regularly. Post it in the comment box below!
It'll be hard to keep to it at first, but once you build the habit, it will be as easy as taking a shower! If you skip a day or two, don't stress. Just get right back on track the next day.
I see the whole warm-up routine as not only a prelude to a more intense workout, but also as a great health maintainer. Out bodies need consistent maintenance. We brush our teeth, we take showers, but we often overlook the fact that our body needs to be fully maintained if we are to stay healthy.
Even if you don't do a lot of exercise, if you're too busy to workout much, make sure you get into the habit of the daily warm-up. You've only got one body, and it is your means of doing good and making a difference in the world. Take care of it! It is your Duty to others, and it is your Duty to yourself!
Please join me in the resolution to build healthy habits. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, leave a comment in the box below. If you liked what you read here, subscribe with the little box on the right and like ScoutingRediscovered on Facebook!
There's a whole lot more awesome posts on traditional Scouting coming up, so stay tuned!