In the last few weeks we have looked at the components that make up the modern conventional warm-up, while also exploring ideas about how our tūpuna prepared for physical activity. There are a few similarities, yet there are also a number of differences. Today I’m going to share a basic warm-up protocol that can be used by anyone, that I believe draws from the best of both worlds.
Before we begin, we have to be mindful of the difference between the lived experiences of our tūpuna, and our modern lives. Our tūpuna were much more physically active, and therefore their tinana more receptive to the physical demands placed upon it. As a result, we cannot simply apply an old technique directly today. We have to condition our tinana, hinengaro, and wairua in a way that acknowledges our current state, and prepares it for an activity to come.
The process for me begins by acknowledging the breath, and maintaining a conscious and purposeful breathing pattern throughout. The breath is known to regulate our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of our hinengaro that is known as the ‘rest and digest’ system. It controls the way our heart beats and even how our puku digests kai. It might seem a bit strange to activate the ‘rest and digest’ system before or during an activity, however, by doing so you’ll increase the level of oxygen you absorb to power your muscles, and gain greater control of your physical actions. This occurs by using the correct muscles of the puku to breathe which strengthen the spine and promote better movement, while reducing the risk of overstimulating the mind and the body. The aim is to develop a rhythmic and controlled breathing pattern that includes nasal breathing. For example, if running, I like to sync my breathing to the beat of my feet hitting the ground. If I am lifting heavy weights, I inhale when the muscles are relaxing, and exhale while they are contracting. A constant rhythm will improve our performance.
Once we acknowledge the breath we then start with karakia (incantations/prayers). The spiritual world of our tūpuna was imbedded in all life aspects. It is the human medium through which the spiritual and physical worlds merge. Therefore, we use karakia to acknowledge this connection, and prepare the physical body to align to its spirituality. At the same time, this mindful practice begins to prepare our neural pathways to work efficiently. This can promote improved coordination and reactivity. Here’s an example of a small karakia that I use before going for a run or going to the gym:
Taku uaua ko te Rangi e tu nei
Taku uaua ko Papa e takoto nei
Whiri kaha, toro kaha te uaua.
Tenei au he pia, he tama nō Tū
Herea, tāmaua ki tēnei tama
He tama nui, he tama roa, he tama atua.
Uhi, wero, tau mai te mauri o Tū
Haumi e, hui e, taiki e!
My sinew is like the sky above
My sinew is like the earth below
Let my sinews gather strength and exert strength.
Here I am a learner, a descendent of Tū (the god of war)
Tū the angry
Tū of rage
Tū with focussed intensity
Tie and bind it to this being
A big being
An ancient being
A being of the gods
Chisel (make permanent), challenge (accepting responsibility) infused with the life force of Tū
Bound together, all is united, it is done!
Following the karakia we then get in to warming up the muscles and getting the blood pumping. Choose a warming exercise that closely reflects the activity you are about to engage in. Begin slow then increase the effort over a period of about 5 minutes. Try this;
1 minutes - easy
2 minutes - medium effort
30 seconds - hard
30 seconds - easy
30 seconds - hard
30 seconds – easy
Once you are warm, and your heart is pumping we move into getting our joints moving. We want the joints to roll, extend and flex in all directions, as far as possible. This will actively stretch the muscles to the edge of your range of motion. We first start near Papatūānuku and work our way up to Ranginui. We work with our feet, rolling the ankles in, out, up, down, round and round. Next work on the knees, then the hips, the puku, chest, shoulders, elbows, wrists and finally the neck. The time I spend on each joint is measured by the time it takes me to complete two breathing cycles. This represents my taha tāne (male side) and my taha wahine (female side).
Finally, the last component is to add some type of game or challenge that incorporates a skill. Catching and throwing, balancing, twisting and turning, hopping and jumping, these are all examples of little skills that can be used. Traditional Māori games are perfect for this, or if in a team environment, then apply the skills that are required for the game ahead. Making this part of the warm-up fun connects to the spirit of Rehia, of fun and entertainment.
Now we are ready to perform. We have locked in our breathing, we have used karakia to sync our mind, body, and soul. We have warmed the body, and we have placed ourselves into positions to extend our range of motion. Lastly, we have focussed on a skill that we can transfer directly in to our activity. The key to a warm-up is not so much about temperature, it's about bringing our hinengaro, tinana, and wairua together to collaboratively achieve a task. We draw on all of our powers in order to produce our best effort in this specific moment. The next level is to consider how we connect with those around us, and bring our shared abilities together for a greater outcome. This is where whānaungatanga (relationships and collective impact) comes in, but that's a whole different kōrero. Have a go, add parts to your own warm-up if you chose to, but always remember that the goal is to prepare ourselves for what is to come. Hopefully, you have done enough work before this point to meet the challenge ahead of you!