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We have a wide range of articles about fitness, health and events at Active.

Read one of our many articles below by clicking on the title and after you have finished, let us know what you think by submitting a comment. What fitness techniques have you tried that have worked or failed? Is there a new kind of fitness class that we don't currently provide? What more could we do to help you achieve a healthy lifestyle?

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Be sharp in the gym

We all know the scenario. You arrive at the gym, pushed for time and raring to get your workout over and done with. Warming up takes time and after all you did just walk all the way from the car park!!! So how can we convince you of

the importance of always including the warm-up and show you the risks if you just throw yourself straight into the gym without any preparation.

The Benefits

• Raising Core Body temperature - Muscles will be much more responsive due to the increase in blood supply and oxygen to the working muscles. REMEMBER warmed up muscles are able to exert greater power - a definite plus!

• Improved Flexibility and Mobility - Due to the increase in blood supply the muscles become more pliable and the joints secrete synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant - think of oiling your bike to keep all the parts working efficiently. 

• Mental preparation - A warm-up gives you time to focus on the exercise ahead and leave the stresses of the day behind. You wouldn't ask an Olympic diver to throw himself off a height without some sort of mental preparation - now would you? 

The Risks

Injury - Decreasing your risk of injury is the MAIN reason to warm-up. Cold muscles are more susceptible to injury due to lack of elasticity. Imagine your muscles as a piece of chewing gum. If you tried to stretch it when it was cold and just out the wrapper, it would snap. But if you chew it for a few minutes and allow it to warm-up, then you can stretch it to your hearts content. 

The Process

Mobilise joints - include movements that take your joints through their full range e.g. shoulder circles. This increases synovial fluid production. Lower body mobilisation can be done on the cardio equipment. 

A 10 minute pulse-raiser - helps raise body temperature and should leave you 'mildly' sweating. In the gym this can be done on the cross trainer, bike etc.

Powerplate - warms-up the muscle fibres super fast and offers an alternative warm-up for weights equipment. 1 minute for lower body (e.g. mid-squat) and 1 minute for upper body (e.g. press-up position).

Specific Warm-up - concentrates on the body part about to be used through rehearsal e.g. performing the first couple of sets of an exercise using light weights. 

The Big Question - Pre-workout stretching? It's been shrouded in controversy for some time. Should we stretch before a workout, or should we simply not bother and get on with our routine?

According to Robin Redgrave, Director of YMCAfit, exercise sessions where joints remain within a controlled range of movement (as in a resistance machine session or a group indoor cycling session) may not need a stretching component during the warm-up. However given that the jury is currently out on this issue, it wouldn't hurt to spend a couple of minutes stretching the muscles about to be used in your workout. However spending ten minutes static stretching after the warm-up, where the body temperature is allowed to drop completely defeats the aim of the warm-up and may actually increase your risk of injury! Don't waste time - get on with the workout!

Remember

From a weight training point, warm muscles are able to exert greater power, contract more efficiently and for longer before fatigue.

With regards to cardio training, research shows that an effective warm-up can increase exercise time and enable you to continue for longer.

So start your workout with a big bang and prep yourself properly!

Now that we've got you hot and bothered and raring to go, you'll have to wait until the next issue to check out more top tips to get the most out of your workout.

Written by Craig Masefield, Mandy Bonhomme at 00:00

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