The Olympics have been over for about a week, but they’re definitely not out of mind. After spending hours watching different athletes in different sports compete at the highest level, I started to think a little bit about how I could accelerate my progress and how I could advance my level of skill, specifically in powerlifting. And what I learned most was something I think we can all learn from and use to help us all progress and become stronger, healthier, and happier.
There’s a reason why Olympic athletes become Olympic athletes. And while genetic predisposition plays a large part in this, what also makes them Olympians is the amount of time that each competitor spends perfecting their craft and skill.
And while we may not have 3 hours a day to dedicate to lifting weights, running, or any physical activity, what we must make time to craft our skill, to perfect our movements so that we don’t become injured and therefor incapable of performing them in the first place. And a huge part of achieving this this is by the proper use of warmups and stretches.
On and off camera before an Olympic event, athletes are taking their time warming up, stretching, and getting themselves physically and mentally prepared to compete. This may last for an hour leading up to their event. But these routines allow them to run faster and lift more weight than anyone in the world.
Now we all aren’t going to be breaking any world records (or maybe we will), but we can train like Olympians. In order to stay healthy and compete at the highest level, Olympic athletes understand the importance of warming up and cooling down. When we only have maybe an hour a day to exercise, we often skip this step and jump right into exercise to save time and get straight to work.
But why would we do this if we know that the most elite athletes all around the world would never skip their warm up routine because it is so crucial to injury prevention and exercise preparedness?
If this step is crucial to any Olympic athlete who has been able to achieve amazing athletic feats, that must mean that it is even more important to the every day gym goer, since we are far less skilled and practiced as these athletes are.
Olympians train nearly every day in some capacity. And every day they warm up and take care of their bodies so they don’t become injured. For those of us who don’t train every day of our lives, we are even more susceptible to injury because we don’t have the time to perfect our form and to practice tirelessly to perfection. Which is why the warm up is even more important to us regular athletes.
Most of us will never be the fastest runner in the world, or the heaviest lifter, but no matter how fast we can run or how much we can lift, taking the time to warm up and stretch like an Olympian will allow you to continue training and keep yourself injury free so that you will continue to grow stronger, instead of rushing into things, trying to go too hard, and then injuring yourself every 6 months and setting back your progress because you didn’t take your warm up seriously and with the mindset of a world class athlete.
Warm up like an Olympian, because they know the important role it has in keeping them healthy. And if you only have an hour to exercise, prioritize warming up and stretching before you touch a single weight because in the long term, a healthy and more mobile body will get you much farther (literally and metaphorically) than an injured and broken one. This will allow you to live a strong, healthy, and happy life for the longest you possibly can.