Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Care and Prevention of Injuries Part 1: Warm-Ups Prior to Activity

This is Part 1 of a 4 part series
I have worked in the Dance and Fitness industry for over 20 years.
My education and experience has given me the knowledge to understand how Warm-Ups Prior to Activity can impact the care and prevention of injuries.

Warm-Ups Prior to Activity
Whether it is an 18 year old professional dancer or athlete, with a perfectly conditioned body, a casual runner, Marathoner or Ultra Marathoner, or an over 40 year old male or female fitness enthusiast, warming-up prior to physical activity is a necessity.

Warm-ups prior to physical activity have a tremendous impact on the care and prevention of injuries. Warm ups are not only useful in raising body temperature which is helpful in preparing the body to endure more intense physical activity, warm-ups also provide the time to take inventory of how the body is feeling, and help nurture the mind and body connection, all of which help reduce the risk of injury.

The lack of consideration to raising the core body temperature prior to dynamic and ballistic movements found in dance, running, and many other athletic endeavors, can easily contribute to connective-tissue inflammatory problems. When the body is cold, the muscles and connective tissue lack elasticity.

Many dancers understand how a warm up that raises body temperature is essential in order to avoid injury. From the moment I began studying to be a dancer, my ballet teachers were always talking about how important it is for dancers to warm up, even before class started. When I began to work professionally, I became more aware of the importance of maintaining a disciplined warm up routine during rehearsals and prior to each show. Many dancers who did not have a warm up routine, were chronically injured, or in pain. These injuries became more evident during the winter months, since most rehearsal spaces and backstage areas are not heated. I attribute my lack of injury during my dance career to always maintaining a disciplined and considerate warm up routine before each show.

Many dancers want to conserve their energy prior to a show; however it is essential to find ways to raise body temperature, and prepare the body for intense activity, in order to avoid injury. There are many ways to warm up prior to intense activity such that is required in a two hour dance performance. My warm up routine consisted of several stages. I began my warm up by raising my core temperature with three to five minutes of continual, fast, diaphragmatic breathing through the nose, which is a basic Kundalini “Breath of Fire” exercise done while in a seated position. “Breath of Fire” is an excellent way to raise the heart rate, and increase blood flow throughout the body without having to exhaust any of the major muscle groups needed for a dance performance. I would progress to a slow and controlled ballet barre consisting of plies and tendues, followed by simple Pilates mat exercises and Horton Technique flat back and spinal articulations. These warm up techniques were beneficial because they were capable of raising my body temperature while conserving enough energy to endure two hours of intense dancing.

Our muscles are not unlike salt water taffy. If you take a piece of salt water taffy out of the fridge and try to pull it apart, it either doesn’t move or it crumbles. If you throw the piece of taffy on the ground with as much force as you can, it will shatter. However, if you hold the taffy in your hand and gently rub it, manipulate it and bring it up to a sufficient temperature, it will become more pliable, will stretch farther, and will stay in one piece.

My years of dance training and exploring different techniques led me to a career in the health and fitness industry specializing in injury prevention for runners. The most common chronic issues associated with running are plantar fasciitis, inflamed hip flexors, IT Band Syndrome, sacroiliitis, shin splints, patellar tendonitis. Many runners can also experience stress fractures of the feet, hips, and legs. When I began specializing in working with runners, there was one common factor between all of the injured runners that came to me. The runners who experienced such injuries did not warm up prior to their runs.

Runners that warm up prior to their runs, minimize the risk of injury. One of the easiest ways a runner can warm their body sport-specifically, is to walk. I encouraged runners to enjoy a 5 minute leisurely walk, where they take inventory of their feet, stride, posture, and breathing, and adjust where needed. If a runner is recovering from an injury, I encourage them to begin with a 5 minute leisurely walk as mentioned before, followed by 8-10 minutes of brisk walking, where they are encouraged to review the inventory list from the leisurely walk.

Many runners risk injury when they are at the peak of training. It is not always easy for a runner to maintain a body temperature sufficient for intense activity while waiting at the starting line for a race. Many marathons are held during fall and early spring where temperatures can be as low as thirty degrees at the starting line. I encourage my runners to implement many of the techniques I used while I was a dancer, warming up before a show. Runners have told me the most helpful technique they have taken from me to use before a race to keep them warm is the Kundalini “Breath of Fire” which can be done standing in a cramped corral.

It is possible for a runner, dancer, and anyone who participates in physical activity to reduce the risk of pain and injury when they have a warm up plan in place and use it.

Written by:
Melissa Adylia Calasanz
Melissa Adylia Gutierrez
of Controlled Burn Fitness
Pedal Precision Indoor Cycling Classes
Saint Mary's LEAP100 PPA Class Kinesiology Challenge

PART 2: Care and Conditioning of the Feet
PART 3: Cross Training
PART 4: Rest and Recovery (coming soon)

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