London's West End, a mysterious place where we go and see fabulous shows, vibrant, magical, exciting. We watch the dancers, actors and singers, amazed at the talent. Clap at the end (stand if it really blew our socks off) and then never EVER see the performers again.
So who are these people, who captivate us with there talent and then vanish?
How do they train? What do they do when not on stage? What do they eat?
So there is one question I may be able to answer for you... The Warm Up!
The warm up is designed to improve performance and reduce the chance injury, the benefits of a warm up are to:
- Increase elasticity of the muscle/tendon unit - this allows for greater flexibility of the joints and reduces the risk of injury. Muscle elasticity is dependant on blood saturation, therefore cold muscles with a low blood saturation are more susceptible to injury. A nice way to think of this, is imagine your muscle is like blu tack - when it's cold, you can stretch it so far, but then it will snap. A warm piece of blu tack can stretch and stretch, is pliable and moveable - harder to snap, therefore making the muscle fibres more elastic.
- Breathing becomes deeper and faster, allowing for more oxygen to be breathed in and carbon dioxide (waste) to be breathed out. This also links with a rise in heart rate - allowing more oxygen and glucose to the muscles for energy production.
- Increased joint range of movement - this is due to an increase in the extensibility of the tendons, muscles, ligaments and other soft tissue structures.
- Prepare the body for movement, the body moves from a state of relative rest to activity.
The Warm Up:
At War Horse for example there is a 15 minute warm up Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, a 15 minute resistance band training warm up on Thursday and a 30 minute Pilates session Tuesday and Friday.
To start... CARDIO:
The cardio component to the warm up includes, jogging, star jumps, squat jacks, skipping, skaters, lateral bound jumps, squat jumps and often the odd grape vine with hand clap!
We then move onto exercises of a steady rhythmical nature, involving other joints of the body - MOBILITY - arm swings, trunk rotation, spinal roll downs etc.
Then a FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH and MOBILITY section looking at - push ups into downward dog, then through into cobra, then to plank, to side plank, to hip openings and mountain climbers - It's important that this section fluid and functional to keep the body warm and continue to mobilise the joints.
Then it's time to STRETCH - focussing on the large muscle groups, and working up from the toes to the head! Calves, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors...
If you have seen the show then you will have noticed that the physical demands of each performer differs, for example the actors that puppeteer the horses, require a slightly different and more specific warm up as they tend to suffer from overuse injuries, from loading the same muscle over and over again, with little rest given during the show.
Nutrition and hydration is also very important for the performers, as well as the timings of food, when to eat to fuel their bodies for the show and what to eat post show to give your body the nutrients it craves to repair the muscles used!
To conclude, warm up's should include a cardio component, followed by a mobility, strength and stretching section. Make it functional, and task specific - so before you warm up, think about why you are warming up? What activity are you about to do, and how can you prepare your body best for the specific movement patterns you are about to perform...
That's a quick overview of how the warm up is structured. Although this is aimed at the Performer, the template of this can be translated to any activity, for information about how to modify your warm up, or any other information then visit my contact page and drop me a line.