Professional athletes are not the only ones who need to warm up. Everyday activities, from the most sedentary to the most vigorous, go better when we take the time to warm up. Think of it as preparation. From the start of the day to the end of the day and all throughout the day, moving our bodies gradually, gently, dynamically, holistically, and completely is a great way to promote full engagement. By paying attention to the transitions, we improve our chances for success and significance in life and work. Read on for some tips on how to make it so.
Have you ever watched dogs wake up? Unless they are startled, they wake up by warming up. First, they stretch, then they yawn • a big yawn • then they stretch again, then they yawn again. Front legs, back legs, neck, shoulders, and hind quarters. Then they get a drink, and perhaps a bite of food, if it’s available, before going outside to walk, do their business, and walk some more.
May that be a lesson for us all. When we shift from one activity to another, it’s important to warm up all the muscles of our body. To go from stillness to all-out effort with no warm up in between is a formula for not only minimizing our performance and enjoyment of the effort but also for risking injury and even death. By failing to respect the laws of motion, especially inertia and momentum, we set ourselves up for failure.
That may, in fact, be the reason why many people fail to stick with an exercise program. They don’t pay attention to the transitions and what it takes to successfully get into motion a body at rest. The more violent the transition, like breaking a set of pool balls, the more noise, unpredictability, and chaos in the resulting action. It just isn’t fun, unless you enjoy extreme sports. The more gradual the transition, however, like that dog waking up, the more music, intention, and attention in the resulting action. Warming up makes everything easier and more enjoyable.
Classroom teachers know that success or failure depends upon careful attention to the transitions. Once a class has their instructions and gets engaged in a learning activity, things tend to proceed smoothly and dynamically. Teachers can float around the room to help individual students, to identify learning gaps, or even to engage in other activities. That’s how momentum works. People get into flow and things proceed more or less on autopilot.
Transitioning to the next activity is another matter entirely. Getting students to stop doing one thing and to start doing another takes a lot more effort. These are also the points where things can really fall apart. If the instructions aren’t clear, if the students don’t want to stop, if they have other needs, if the room isn’t ready, if the equipment isn’t handy • there are countless reasons why classes may fall apart at the transition points. Excellent lesson plans take all this into consideration. They plan not only the activities; they also plan the transitions. How do we get from one activity to the next? Therein lies the crux of successfully getting through the school day.
Therein also lies the crux of getting through life in general. Optimal Fitness requires us to pay careful attention to the transitions. As we said last week, we first need to plan out the quantity of our transitions. The more frequent the better. Even during sleep, our bodies naturally shift, turn, roll around, and move. That’s even more important during waking hours. To do the same activity in the same way using the same muscles in the same position and the same plane for hours at a time with no breaks and no diversions is a formula for disaster. We’re just not made to work that way. Shift frequently.
After we get in the groove of frequent transitions, we then need to plan out the quality of our transitions. That’s where today’s Provision comes into play. We need to warm up. We need to stretch, twist, yawn, scratch, drink, and wag like a dog. Our transitions need to be gradual, gentle, dynamic, embodied, holistic, and complete. And that goes for far more transitions than most of us realize.
Everyone knows that athletes warm up before their competitions. They just wouldn’t think of pushing their bodies full force from a cold start. Not everyone realizes, however, that the activities of everyday life require the same degree of thoughtful and engaged preparation. Whether it’s doing laundry or sitting at a computer, whether it’s shopping or participating in a meeting, whether it’s yard work or reading a book, whether it’s building roads or driving on them • every single activity challenges us to apply ourselves and to expend energy.
That means every single activity represents a kind of competition for which we would do well to warm up. The times before we do whatever we do, the transition points, are opportunities to prepare ourselves for what comes next. Teachers understand this when they ask their students to stand and stretch between activities or when the class is acting restless. Meeting planners understand this when they schedule “bio breaks.” Sleepy drivers understand this when they stop, get out of the car, and walk around.
No matter what we are doing, the body, mind, and spirit need to be fully aligned and engaged if we hope to be successful and satisfied with our performance. Warm ups enable us to get that way, whether we are about to run a marathon, complete an assignment, or give a speech. Warm ups are good things to do.
One of the most simple and gentle of warm ups are a series of three standing poses recommended by Susan and Larry Terkel in their book Small Change. They can be done virtually anywhere and any time to warm us up for activities at any level.
- Downward Facing Pose. Stand about three feet away from a table, desk, sink, or counter top. Place your feet hip distance across and pointing forward. Bend forward from the waist, with legs straight, and grab the edge. Draw your tailbone away from the edge, elongate the spine, look up slightly, and then arch your back. With your tailbone six to eight inches behind your heels, breathe deeply and hold the pose for 30-45 seconds (or through five deep breaths). Smile.
- Upward Facing Pose. With your feet in the same position, stand up straight, then bring your hips forward toward the edge of the table or counter top, without moving your feet or bending your knees. Rise up on your toes while pushing down on the edge with straight arms, into a standing backbend. Roll your shoulders back, gaze at the ceiling, breathe deeply, and hold the pose for 30-45 seconds (or through five deep breaths). Smile.
- Standing Tall Pose. Bring your feet together, toes and ankles touching, and stand as tall as possible. Your shoulders should line up over your hips, over your knees, over your ankles, and over the front of your heels. Take several deep breaths while standing erect but not tight or tense. Smile.
These poses are best done dynamically, in two to three minutes, as one pose flows gently and gradually into the other. There should be a sensation of mild warmth and openness. They relax and invigorate at the same time. They get us ready for what comes next, whether quiet and sedentary or loud and active.
If you have a few more minutes, less than six total, you may want to consider a routine called the “Dynamic Warm Up” by Ron Jones. I like it because it is more comprehensive and dynamic than the three standing poses. It is also easy to follow (after practicing the movements and using the cue card). It is a great way to transition into work or vigorous exercise.
Ron’s warm up uses, works, and builds the following dynamics:
- Joint Stability • the ability to maintain a posture or control motion.
- Joint Mobility • the ability to move both proactively and reactively.
- Core Muscles • the ability to stabilize the spine whether at rest or in movement.
- Functional Balance • the ability to recover balance after imbalance.
- Propioceptive Demand • the ability to perceive and regulate movement.
- End-Range Position • the ability to meet movement requirements without injury.
To strengthen these six abilities, Ron’s warm-up walks people through ten dynamic movements. Based upon your level of readiness and fitness, the movements can be done at greater or lesser levels of intensity. The best way to learn and practice these movements is to purchase and use Ron’s DVD. There you will have 4-5 minutes of instruction on each movement as well as a tempo warm-up that works through all ten movements in less than 6 minutes. The titles alone give you a sense of how these movements work to warm up and challenge all parts of the body:
- Spinal Rotation
- Calf Stretch
- Squat & Back Extension
- Single-Leg Balance Reach
- Forward Lunge Reach
- Backward Lunge Twist
- Drop Lunge
- Lateral Lunge Reach
- Spinal Flexion/Extension & Shoulder Retraction
Like the Terkels’ three standing poses, Ron’s dynamic warm up can be used periodically throughout the day, at the transition points. It’s obviously an excellent way to warm up before vigorous exercise, whether aerobic or strength training. But it’s also an excellent way to get into and out of our daily activities.
Amateur athletes who are pressed for time would do well to note the importance of warming up. If one only has 20 minutes to work out, it is better to warm up for 6 minutes and then to work out for another 14 than to jump immediately into the workout at high intensity. Cramming in a workout without warming up is a formula for discouragement and injury. It is a great way for the “weekend warrior” to end up back on the couch.
Don’t let that happen to you. Warm up before exercise and other activities. Become intentional about the things you do before you do things. Don’t rush from one thing to the next, without adequate and appropriate preparation. Take lessons from that dog! It’s really not hard to do.
Coaching Inquiries: What kind of attention do you pay to warming up? What would it take to incorporate either the three standing poses or the dynamic warm up into your daily routine? When would be good times to do these? Who could do them with you? How could you make it so?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..
I love your newsletter and look forward to each new issue. Your positive suggestions are so uplifting and make such good sense! I especially enjoy the way you share the thoughts and writings of others you meet during your travels. Congratulations on your daughter’s fine academic accomplishment. I know you are so proud of her!
Your Provision, Shift Frequently Click, challenges me to get back to track. I have been letting a few things slip by lately. Thanks for the inspiration. PS • Congratulations to your daughter…hope she is ready for the next phase.
This has been an excellent series, and this one is my favorite even at 5:30 am (certainly not sleeping enough). I have listed my cup fillers, now the question is “how/where can I fit them in my day without it becoming a burden? Thank you for the knowledge you share. I certainly look forward to your email every Sunday.
I like this series since there is so much in it that I can use myself, even though I am so physically challenged nowadays.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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