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My Off Skates Warm Up Crusade, and, oh, Newbies!!

One of the reasons I love being a Cherry City Derby Girl (CCDG) is that our league takes anyone interested in derby, no matter their skating ability.  Our Level 1 coaches will actually teach you how to skate!  How cool is that? Our newest group includes 24 girls, many who haven’t skated since childhood.  Since our current Level 1 girls are getting ready to start their two day testing cycle that will catapult them to Level 2, it’s Boot Camp time for the newbies!!  Boot Camp includes a functional movement assessment.  You really get a clear view of your own balance while trying to do an inline lunge with a dowel in your hands behind your back! While being functionally assessed can be a little daunting, it really helps new skaters be aware of imbalances that could create injury for them later on.

A main focus of Boot Camp is to teach our skaters proper warm up, workout and cool down exercises.  This not only gets them active before they get on skates, it also teaches them proper form that will help their bodies adjust to skating 3-4 days a week. I really stress the warm up to all of our girls.  Even if you are late to practice, still spend at least five minutes ( 10 minutes is better!) warming up, OFF skates.  Then put your skates on and jump into practice. I know there is a lot of pressure to get on skates and into practice, but think first about how much practice, and maybe bouts, you will miss if you tear a muscle. Plus, warming up can prevent muscle cramps, which really makes a practice painful and frustrating.

So here’s a little science behind my warm up crusade:

  1. Warming up increases the body’s core temperature.  Higher temperatures create the Bohr effect, which improves oxygen delivery. Higher temperatures facilitate oxygen release from hemoglobin and myoglobin, making it more available for use in our muscles.  Think about going swimming in a cold river.  Many of us stick a toe in, say “Brrrr!”, and don’t get in right away.  It works the same for oxygen.  It’s happy to stay bound to hemoglobin and myoglobin when the environment around it is “cold”.  More available oxygen means that your muscles can work longer. Oxygen is absolutely required for aerobic work.  In fact, if you are working aerobically, it means that  you are producing the necessary ATP (your muscle’s fuel) through the use of oxygen. Therefore, more oxygen, more ATP!
  2. Warming up increases muscle temperature.  Warmer muscles are have reduced viscous resistance, which means they move and stretch more easily. This reduces the possibility of muscle tears.
  3. Warming up increases blood flow to active muscles, which in turn increases nutrient delivery to muscles.  Those pathways that create ATP require the necessary building blocks to move forward. More nutrients = more ATP = more work possible!
  4. Warming up enhances metabolic reactions. The metabolic pathways that produce ATP move faster at higher temperatures.  Faster reactions = more ATP = more work!
  5. Warming up creates faster muscle contraction and relaxation.  This means you will can change direction faster, move your feet quicker. The rate of force development increases and reaction time decreases.
  6. Warming up loosens up joints.  Joint or synovial fluid can be more solid when cold, like the fat that solidifies in the frying pan when it cools off.  We’ve all experienced this before when going for a long car ride.  You’re stiff when you finally get out of the car. You need to move a little, your joints warm up, loosen up, and then you feel fine.  When that fluid is liquefied, joint range of motion is improved as well.  You’ll get lower, twist farther and move faster.
  7. Warming up “dusts” off the nerves.  Sport specific movement “wakes up” the neural pathways to our muscles, increasing force production, strength and power.  If you’ve already done some side shuffles, quick foot movements, and a few jukes on  your feet, you are going to respond faster and do them more quickly once you have your skates on.
  8. Warming up also “preloads” the muscles, putting them in the best position for work which = faster contraction. Our muscles work based on the sliding filament theory of contraction.  Two components, actin and myosin filaments, work together to create muscle contraction.  In a preloaded muscle, these filaments lie slightly one over the other, aligned optimally to create cross bridges. A muscle contraction is the result of the flexion of these cross bridges, which pull the actin filaments inward.