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  Warm ups-Why They Are Essential!

April 2001

Warm ups-Why They Are Essential!

Submitted by Lisa Gagnon

There are several reasons to show up for judo class on time, including respect for your instructor(s) and fellow judoka. Another important reason for arriving to class on time is to get the full benefit of the warm-ups and stretching before instruction begins.

There are almost as many theories about preparing for exercise, as there are ways to prepare for exercise. Most experts agree that warming up and stretching (before and after) exercise helps reduce injuries while enhancing the bodyís flexibility and strength.

What is the difference between warm-ups and stretching? Warm-ups are the jogging or jumping jacks type activities that begin to increase the flow of blood to the muscles, heart and lungs. The more blood flowing through your system, the more waste collected from the muscles (like lactic acid) and the more oxygen collected from the lungs to geed the muscles. Remember too, the heart is one of your largest muscles and you want it to keep up with your bodyís demands for blood while you are doing randori or other techniques.

Once the blood is flowing the temperature of your muscles will rise 2-3 degrees Farenheight making them more elastic and easier to loosen and lengthen. This helps prevents muscle injuries and tendon pulls, according to Dr. John M. Marzo, and orthopedic surgeon, specializing in sports medicine. (1)

Recommended warm-ups may last 5-15 minutes, depending on the type and amount of exercise you are doing. Five minutes of warm-up, 10 minutes of stretching prior to class and 5-10 minutes of stretching after class allows for about 35-40 minutes of instruction and practice.

Once again, if you arrive late to class, you may have to do warm-ups and stretching while instruction and practice is going on, therefore you may miss important information! If you try to participate in class without warm-up or stretching, you risk injuring yourself or other players. What if your cold muscles and joints donít respond to your demands during a throw, and you proceed to throw your uke badly? Now your lax attitude about promptness and/or stretching may have resulted in unnecessary injuries to your uke. At the very least, that person may not be too keen to work with you again!

Assuming you have arrived on time and done the warm-ups, the next phase of class is stretching and strengthening the major muscle groups: back, legs, arms, neck, abdomen. These exercises will also help your ligaments and joint. Regular stretching before and after class, (and periodically during the week at home!) will help keep your body functioning well now, and will help it continue working well as you age (remember the adage: Use it or Lose It!). I know that I donít have the flexibility I had when I was in high school, but at 37 I often seem to have more flexibility that junior players who are 30 years younger than me!

The strengthening exercises include sit-ups, and push-ups. Many judoka do not enjoy these exercises, but here are a few things to consider: The number of sit-ups and push-ups we do on average will not result in beer-can abs or Mr. Universe biceps! They will, however, allow us to be more effective when lifting (or pushing, or pulling) to get our uke or opponent off-balance.

Barring serious injuries or other health considerations, judoka should make every effort to do stretching and strengthening exercises correctly. Younger players too often do not make enough effort to learn how to do stretching exercises correctly and therefore are not getting the full benefit of the exercise. Some weeks it is almost painful to watch younger players doing sloppy sit-ups and push-ups! I often tell my kids that something worth doing, is worth doing right! Remember if you body is not prepared to play judo, you risk injuring yourself and others!

Age is another factor when preparing to warm-up and stretch. According to Dr. Tom Winters, another orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, ďThe older we get, the longer it takes to warm muscles. The blood supply isnít quite as good and doesnít move as fast to certain areas of the body. So when older people donít warm up properly, including stretching, then are at greater risk for an injury.Ē (2) This would suggest to me that older judoka, say 30 and up, and even younger players who have sedentary day jobs, should get to the dojo early to start their warm-ups and stretching before class.

As we have all learned, two of the principles of judo are Seiryoku Zeníyo (Maximum Efficiency) and Jita Kyoei (Mutual Benefit). To me, proper warm-ups, stretching and strengthening exercises are the first steps to those goals.

(1) Healtheon/WebMD 2000; Article by Mike Fillon, MS, WebMD Medical News, March 10, 2000, Atlanta, GA.

(2) Healtheon/WebMd 2000; Article by Mike Fillon, MS, WebMD Medical News, March 10, 2000, Atlanta, GA.