Minutes of warm-up can save weeks of rehab

Q and A


How important is warming up? I have a limited amount of time to devote to exercising each day, and I'd like to focus as much of it as I can on the workout itself. If my muscles already feel relatively warm, do I still need to warm up? If so, for how long?

Exercising without a warm-up is asking for disaster. You should be spending five to 15 minutes slowly warming up your muscles and increasing your blood flow and heart rate (longer if you're exercising in the cold).

Once you're through, stretch your muscles thoroughly. Be sure to cover every muscle group you'll be using, and make your stretching sport-specific. For instance, for soccer you might concentrate on your quads, hamstrings, calves, groin and hip flexor muscles.

Is it losing time that worries you? Think of how long it will take to rehab a pulled muscle. If the alternative is a short daily warm-up, the choice is a no-brainer. Cooling down and stretching after the fact will also help keep you loose and injury-free.

I often forget which locker is mine at the gym (we can't keep locks on overnight). I'm also prone to forgetting my combination since I use two different locks. Any advice on how to convince the gym to let me keep the same locker?

Ask the manager, but if your gym already has a policy in place, it's unlikely you'll persuade him or her to make an exception.

Wandering wet through a sea of identical lockers in a tiny towel is no one's idea of a good time. Here's our Plan B: tie a colored ribbon to your lock, and leave the other lock at home.

Remembering your combination is a bit tougher. The best way is to assign meaning to the numbers in your combination. For instance, if your combination is 14-31-2, you could use the day of Valentine's Day, the number of Baskin-Robbins flavors and the number of wheels on your stationary bike.

Still can't remember? Secure a tiny slip of paper to the back of your lock with symbols of a heart, ice cream cone and bike.

In a core muscles class at my gym I was introduced to a great abs exercise. As hard as I try, I haven't been able to replicate it and the instructor has left my gym, so I have no one to ask.

The exercise involved scissor kicking so that one heel touches the floor while the other leg is vertical. The problem is that I can't feel a burn in my abs when I try it now. Have my abs just gotten strong, or am I doing something wrong?

If you haven't been doing intense crunch workouts regularly, you probably haven't outgrown the exercise. While it's hard to know for sure without seeing you perform the move, here are a few corrections that may help you replicate the "burn" you felt in class.

Be sure to keep your head and shoulder blades raised off the ground

Keep your lower back flat on the floor

Perform the movement slowly, pointing your toes

At its peak, grasp the lifted leg with both hands

Don't let your bottom leg touch the ground (stop just short of the floor)

Making these modifications should allow you to get the full benefits of the workout. If you still aren't having success, meet with a trainer to fine-tune your form.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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