Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Do you stare at the sun? The real story behind warming up.

Did you ever notice how unpleasant it is to have a bright light in your eyes after they’ve acclimated to the dark? Or, how about when you take a hot shower immediately after playing in the snow and it feels like molten lava? Of course you have. This is a totally normal phenomenon that we’ve all experienced.

Vision and temperature sensation are both mediated by the nervous system which is very adaptive. It adjusts its sensitivity to attempt to match your current setting. A big change in the setting creates a bit of a shock to the system. Do you know what else is mediated by the nervous system? Movement.

When we become very active after having been relatively still it is the same shock to the nervous system as the bright light or the hot water.

If you don’t let your nervous system re-acclimate to the new setting gradually it can have consequences. The light can bring about a headache if you don’t look away to a dimmer area for a minute and the water can bring about a feeling of having been burnt that may last for several hours. If we don’t re-acclimate our movement we can be left with a sensation of stiffness, soreness, clumsiness, etc. This is the essence of “warming up” before activity.

I don’t know too many people that would stare into that bright light or punish themselves in the hot water without first “warming up.” So, why don’t we do it at work and play? Stop staring into the light!

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