Every athlete in every discipline knows the importance of warming up. A good warm up doesn’t just help to keep you safe from injury - it also improves performance. So getting in a good warm up is a strategy we all should utilize.
But sometimes getting a good warm up isn't as straightforward as it might seem. For instance, there are those times when you do a warm up and feel ready to go. Then, for whatever reason, you are delayed in actually starting your workout. Even worse, sometimes this happens in a cold environment. In a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers asked how long you should ideally wait after a warm up to begin exercising, and also investigated the effects of cold temperatures on workout effectiveness.
One of the ways warming up helps you to perform better is by increasing your body and muscle temperatures. Increasing temperature up to a point improves blood flow and primes the muscles and nerves for action. This can still be done in the cold, but once you stop moving, the warmth will be rapidly lost to the air around you. Combining cold temperatures with a long break between a warm up and workout would seem to be a bad idea.
The question of how long you should ideally wait after a warm up to begin exercising is far too complicated to cover in one article. The duration, intensity, and methods used to warm up alone might dramatically affect how long to wait before exercise or competition for ideal results, and even more importantly, it’s not the best researched topic either. So let’s just say, a good time to wait is less than the time it takes for you to not be warm anymore.
In this study, the researchers took some runners and some rowers and had them do four separate trials. They chose athletes from different sports to get a more complete look at the effects. The trials had two different rest periods that followed the warm ups - five minutes and thirty minutes. They also tested two different temperatures of environments - near freezing and room temperature. Each athlete did a warm up with both short and long rests and in warm and cold temperatures on different days of the week.
To summarize, the four testing scenarios were:
- Near-freezing temperatures and five minutes of rest
- Room temperatures and five minutes of rest
- Near-freezing temperatures and thirty minutes of rest
- Room temperatures and thirty minutes of rest
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the cold temperature combined with the thirty-minute rest period had a negative impact on performance. The rowers were only affected by the cold temperatures with the long rest period, but the other testing conditions showed little difference in performance results. The runners were more affected by each variable. The near freezing temperature along with a long rest had the biggest impact. The next two scenarios with the most negative impact on performance were near freezing with short rest and room temperature with long rest.
So when asking yourself if you need to warm up again after a delay in a cold temperature, the answer is yes. The authors recommend wearing warm clothing to help mitigate any detrimental effects, which may allow for longer delays after your warm up. But when in doubt, just warm up again.