yeah, that's right. Real men warm up. The ones who don't aren't real, and the one's who you don't see warm up probably do.
This past weekend I got schooled in the value of the warm up. I played ultimate frisbee for the first time in a couple years or so, and by the time I finished I could hardly walk. Oof. I'm getting old.
Besides this though, I have noticed that anytime I go out for a ride the first 20 minutes or so seem much more difficult than they should. My interest was piqued and I couldn't help but keep track on a few rides this fall. It seems that the ideal amount of warm up time for me is somewhere between 21 and 22 minutes. Weird, huh?
I don't really know very much about why warming up helps. Perhaps I'll investigate more in the future and report back. However, I do know that it makes a big difference. The best analogy I can come up with is like the motor on your car. Now if you aren't from someplace with cold winters you may not actually know what I mean. But growing up in Minnesota can teach you a thing or two about what to do and what not to do when the air outside is cold enough to freeze your spit before it hits the ground. When you are going to drive in weather like this it is critical to let your engine warm up a bit before starting. Everything cold is a bit more rigid and constricted. Heat helps this loosen up.
The same is true about your body, to a point. We know that too much heat causes problems as well. Your body at rest is just kind of hanging out maintaining function of important organs like your brain. When you start to exercise your muscles need a little time to turn on their engines. This is why warming up is key. Warming up tells your body, "Hey wake up! It's time to move." Your body then has a change to start burning energy in the appropriate way for whatever activity you might be doing. Kind of cool really. If you start out too hard your body takes a while to catch up.
This is why cyclists who are about to ride time trials frequently spend what appears like a ridiculously long time on the trainer. They need to make sure when they start their ride that the machines in their body are already humming right along. I always thought it looked insane to sit on a trainer and ride for an hour or so before getting on the starting platform and riding all out for 30-40 miles. But it really works.
see? all the cool kids are doing it.