Warming Up for Competition

I recently competed at and took second The Arnold Strongwoman World Championships.

I’ll never get tired of saying that.

There is the five months of event training that I did after Nationals to get my mentally prepared for everything. But then there is the day-of preparation to make sure I’m ready to attack these heavy weights. One thing I’ve learned from competing in a variety of sports is the importance of a warm up. The more intense the activity I’m about to participate in, the more important getting warm and a little sweaty is.

So before the competition started, I did a series of hard sprints.

It got me sweaty and breathing hard. And I’m conditioned enough that a few ~30m dashes aren’t going to wipe me.

In judo, we would do a series of calisthenics and throwing drills.

In weightlifting we do a bunch of squats and presses with light weights.

As a dancer, I would “mark” my dances at a lower effort.

Now, for many, it’s CrossFit Open time, where it’s going to be really important to warm up before such high intensity work occurs.

People new to athletics have a tendency towards thinking that if they do any sort of significant warm up, they’re going to wear themselves down and hinder their performance. The truth is, first, if you’re not in shape enough to do a warm up and not have it knock you out, you probably shouldn’t be competing. Second, the warm up (emphasis on WARM) does things for your body to allow it to move through a greater range of motion, helps increase joint lubrication for ease of movement, and there is some thought that it helps get neurons and motor units firing better.

I came across THIS STUDY write up showing how 15 mins of warm up at 60%, 70%, and 80% of V02max compared to no warm up at all on range of motion flexibility and subsequent performance of a high intensity activity. Results were:

  • All three warm up intensities changed range of motion, whereas the stretching without a warm up had no range of motion change.

  • The 60% and 70% warm up showed better performance on the test activity, with the 80% showing only slightly better than no warm up.

The authors suggest that these results don’t mean that you have to do 15 minutes of continuous effort at 60-70%. Rather, you can break it up to short bursts of 80% effort interspersed with other warm up activities. (Sound like sprints or throwing drills to anyone?) Then allow your heart rate to return to normal before the testing begins.

What might this look like for the CrossFit Open?

  • Throw a few 150-200m rowing sprints between your joint specific mobility and movement work

  • Start and end with a 3-5 min easy run, with some light calisthenics in the middle (lunges, push ups, sit ups)

  • Burpees, lunge jumps, jump rope, mix and match to get yourself sweaty

Don’t fall into the beginner’s trap of hobbling your work because you think a few sprints are going to wipe you out. And if a few sprints DO wipe you out, you need to rethink your training.