As the winter months close in once again, the importance of warming up before working out is much more apparent. Going from the cozy warmth of bed to the chill of an early winter morning, or from a heated car into the freezing evening air is not only a physical shock but it’s also a psychological barrier that every person who trains must deal with daily in winter.
Vocal Warm Ups
It is critical to remember that, as group exercise instructors, we are not just exercising our bodies. At the same time that we put ourselves through strenuous physical exercise, we are also using our voices at a high intensity. Just as we train our bodies to cope with the physical demands of our profession, we also need to train our voices, which are under constant stress throughout each class we teach. In Quarter 1 2013, LMAP rolled out an education session on the importance of The Voice, which outlined some vocal warm up drills designed to prevent vocal conditions that result from overuse and misuse of the voice. In case you missed out on the session, they are included at the end of the article.
Physical Warm Ups
Stiffness through muscles and joints is one of the most obvious physical limitations of being cold, but there are many adjustments your body needs to make prior to exercising, which means a suitable warm up is essential, not only in winter, but all year round. Warming up your body increases blood flow to the working muscle, which results in decreased muscle stiffness, less risk of injury and improved performance. In addition to the physical benefits, warming up also encourages psychological preparation by increased focus on the physical activity to follow.
A proper warm up will:
- increase blood flow to the muscles, which enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients
- warm your muscles, which promotes the energy-releasing reactions used during exercise and makes the muscles more supple
- increase production of synovial fluid located between the joints to reduce friction
- prepare your muscles for stretching
- release adrenaline, which increases your heart rate
- prepare you mentally for the upcoming exercise by clearing the mind and increasing focus. Positive imagery can also help athletes relax and build concentration
- prime your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise
- prevent unnecessary stress and fatigue being placed on your muscles, heart and lungs, which can occur if you exercise strenuously without a warm-up
These changes don’t happen instantly, so the purpose of a warm up is to encourage the physical adjustments to occur steadily, by commencing the exercise session at an easy level and increasing the intensity gradually. Imagine going straight into a final peak, the power track in BODYATTACK® for example, as soon as you got up in the morning … Ouch! If you were to start exercising at a strenuous level without a warm-up, your body would not be prepared for the higher demands being made of it, which may cause injury and unnecessary fatigue. Warming up brings the body to a condition at which it safely responds to nerve signals for quick and efficient action.
Every one of our Les Mills programs have their own unique warm up tracks, all of which consist of a gradual increase in intensity in physical activity, joint mobility exercise and (in some cases) stretching. An effective warm up will be specific to the activity, so that the muscles to be used are activated, which is why each program has its own unique style of warm up, specific to the activities undertaken throughout the rest of the class.
VOCAL WARM UP DRILLS
- Roll your shoulders up, back and down to release upper body tension
- Blow your lips together like a horse. Add gentle voicing “brrrrr”
- Tongue trill with gentle voicing “rrrrrr”. Follow with “la la la la la” feeling your voice bounce off the roof of your mouth
- Hum gently as if agreeing.... “mmm”, feeling the voice vibrations in the front of your face and the tingle in your lips. Say 5 “m” words with an exaggerated “mmm” at the beginning, e.g. “mmmain, mmmore, mmmoon, mmmine, mmmoan.”
- Say “ng” as at the end of “sing” then glide smoothly and effortlessly into vowels:
- ng ah
- ng ay
- ng ee
- ng oh
- ng oo
- ng aw
Our physical warm ups are built in to the programs we teach and we can borrow from the principles behind the design of these warm ups to help us prepare for our own training. In order to ensure that we are also taking good care of our voices, we need to be diligent in warming up our vocal cords before every single class we teach. Singing in the car just got a whole lot more interesting!
By Clare Hallas
Clare comes from a marketing background and currently works for Les Mills Asia Pacific as a National Trainer and Presenter in BODYATTACK®, BODYSTEP® and CXWORX®. She also teaches BODYPUMP® and RPM™ and is based in Melbourne.