Please, please, please do not do aerial without first preparing your body! In a nutshell a proper warm up gradually raises your heart rate and gets your muscles and joints primed for activity, so that you're both physically and mentally prepared.
I know it can be very tempting to skip your warm-up and jump right into your training session, especially if you are time limited or arriving late. But ask yourself is that smart use of your time, or is it asking for trouble?
Here are ten great reasons why you should warm up
1. It will boost your performance
By gradually increasing your body temperature through your warm-up, physiological changes occur that optimise the function of both the cardiovascular system and the muscles themselves - making you better prepared for the subsequent strains placed upon your body.
2. It will increase your joint range of motion
A warm-up will help increase the active range of motion around the joints, by improving muscle elasticity and releasing synovial fluid to lubricate the joints.
The movements involved in aerial require the joints of the whole body to be taken through a variety of planes and ranges of motion - preparing these joints before you start will enable you to bend deeper, lunge lower, and reach further.
Being disciplined and incorporating warm ups and cool downs in aerial sessions, will also help you develop and maintain an increased range of movement long term.
3. Increase blood flow to your working muscles
This will better prepare them for the additional workload to come.
4. Increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles
This will prevent you from getting out of breath too early or too easily.
5. Prepare your heart gradually for an increase in activity. As you exercise, your heart rate goes up and your heart pumps more blood around your body to supplement your muscles, which are working harder than usual. This needs to be done gradually during a warm up, so as to avoid a rapid increase in blood pressure.
6. Prime your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise. This will improve your performance and therefore the quality of your aerial training.
7. Increase blood temperature. Which can allow you to work out longer and harder.
8. Prompt hormonal changes in the body. Which are responsible for regulating energy production. Obviously energy is a much needed commodity in your aerial workout.
9. Improve your aerial technique. Incorporating things such as straddles, tucks and pikes in a floor warm-up will help prepare your body for what it'll be doing in the air. Also practicing things like shoulder engagement helps give muscle memory to the body.
10. Help you mentally prepare. Doing aerial is challenging and we want to get our mind and body in an optimum state ready for the challenges ahead. Warming up improves co-ordination and reaction times and helps to get us focused and ready with our minds alert and primed for the aerial game.
We definitely don’t want to be thinking about what we're having for dinner whilst attempting dangerous feats in the air! And neither do we want a bad, negative attitude as this will also affect our ability to execute difficult, challenging moves.
Standby for a totally awesome rocking training session
All of the above reasons go towards reducing the risk of injury which, let's face it is a sure fire way to kill all motivation. Remember by doing a great warm up you're standing yourself in good stead for a totally awesome and rocking training session ahead.
What does a warm up consist of?
Spending just a few minutes (10 - 15 minutes is plenty) warming up will help you perform at your best, prevent injury and make your session as positive and effective as possible.
Make sure your warm up includes the following:
cardio to raise your heartbeat and get you warm
stretch all the body parts / muscles you'll use (pay particular attention to arms, shoulders, back, neck, legs)
mobilise all joints (especially shoulders, wrists and hips)
encourage the body to progressively move through a full range of motion
Let's talk about the cool down
Quite often people don't really see the point of a cool down - I mean you've done the hard bit right? Aerial class is over - now it's time for dinner! Well hang on there my friend - cool downs are just as important as warm ups and this is why...
1.) Lowers your heart rate
We now know that exercising speeds up your heart rate, so when you stop exercising, your heart rate slows and returns to normal. Unfortunately, if this happens too fast it can be very dangerous.
Have you ever felt light-headed or dizzy after finishing a workout? If you have, it's because your blood pressure dropped too fast after you finished exercising. A cool-down will allow your blood pressure to drop gradually and prevent any risk of injury or harm to you post aerial class.
2.) Prevents injuries
Much like warming up, cooling down after exercise has huge benefits in preventing injuries, such as muscle tears and strains. After your muscles have worked as hard as they have, they need to be stretched out while they're still warm. What this achieves in practice is elongating your muscle fibres, as they’ve been under strain doing all those intense aerial moves!
3.) Stretch out your muscles
Cooling down will involve stretching all the muscles that have been used. This in turn helps to increase the range of motion in the joints, which helps to increase flexibility.
4.) Relax your mind
Aerial and exercise in general benefits the mind as well as the body. In addition to improving overall health, it can create good moods, a positive outlook and help focus the mind.
It may sound a bit silly but cooling down provides an opportunity to reflect and contemplate. We all live such non-stop lives that it's good to spend once in a while stretching and really being in the body. Noticing how it feels - where it feels tight, sore, lengthened, toned and gauging how you feel overall. Maybe also to reflect on your accomplishments in class.
Take advantage of your cool-down to be really present with your body and foster awareness of how your body feels.