I’ve seen it myself too many times to count. A beginner fencer (sometimes even a seasoned fencer) comes in for a private lesson in a rush two minutes before the start time, throws on their gear and jumps in.
This is totally incorrect! Before a private fencing lesson it’s so, so important that a fencer get properly warmed up. This isn’t a recommendation, it’s absolutely a requirement. Though it’s easy to get busy and skip the warm up, this is one of those instances in life where the easy thing to do is not the right thing to do.
Before you engage in any physical activity, not just fencing, you should do a short warm up. It’s one of those small things that has a big impact, and that you’ll instantly regret skipping when that injury inevitably comes around. All sport experts consistently recommend that athletes engage in warm up activities prior to training. Private fencing lessons are an integral part of fencing training!
Nine reasons to warm up before fencing lessons
Should you need more convincing, here are nine solid reasons to take the time to warm up before your fencing private lesson.
1. You learn your body
During the warm up process, you’ll become aware of any hang ups in your body that you might not have noticed before. This is the most undervalued benefit of the warm up process! Maybe you turned your ankle a bit when you hopped out of bed this morning and slipped on the carpet. Or perhaps you over-extended your elbow in your fencing class yesterday. We don’t pay attention to minor discomfort during the busy day, so unless you self monitor you probably won’t notice that your wrist is looser than usual or your shoulder is stiff.
Those small injuries are no big deal as they are, but if you don’t slow down and notice them, talk to your coach about them, then you’ll go full bore and make it exponentially worse. It’s easy to cater to those small things if you know they’re there though!
2. Physically preventing injuries
Warming up doesn’t just prevent injury by knowing your body, it also physically prevents the risk of bone and muscle injury. Warm up exercises assist your circulatory system in pumping blood to your muscles where it’s needed. That makes your muscles more pliable, easier to move without strain. Cold muscles don’t absorb impact as easily. Cold muscles are rigid and inflexible. Think about what happens if you drop a glass bowl on the floor, brittle and breakable, versus a plastic one that’s pliable and forgiving.
When you warm up effectively, you prepare your body for the demands of fencing.
3. Cardiovascular improvements
During any heavy activity, fencing included, your heart works hard. When you warm up effectively, it gradually increases your blood pressure rate instead of spiking it. Athletes who skip the warm up tend to get tired faster because of the spike, as the nutrients and oxygen burn up quickly when the heart goes into overdrive. The rapid increase in blood pressure that happens when you skip a warm up can lead to over-fatigue that can eventually contribute to many unpleasant health conditions. That’s obviously over time, but the better you take care of your heart in small ways, the more it adds up and vice versa.
Easing up from being sedentary in the school, at work and on the drive over to the club to the aerobic movement of a fencing lesson allows your heart to stay healthier, your stamina to last longer, and your entire body to be more in balance.
4. Brain preparations
The transition from outside the fencing club to being focused on your skill doesn’t happen magically. During a warm up, the brain has time to transition from whatever non-fencing activity you were doing before to fencing. Essentially, you’re “flipping the switch” to fencing. This means less transition time during the lesson and more quality time working on your skill.
Believe it or not, exercise actually helps prevent brain fatigue and it also helps you to relax so your brain is better equipped to handle the new information you’re about to pour into it during your private lesson! You need to condition your muscles to react to the commands coming from your fencing coach to your brain and to react automatically. Cold muscles don’t do that well!
5. Improving performance
While strictly speaking a private lesson isn’t a competitive performance, it’s still a time when you want to be doing your best so that your coach can see your best action and help you to improve it.
Warming up will increase your heart rate and also increase the flow of blood to your muscles, two things that will allow your body to function more efficiently. Coordination is all about the paths between your nervous system and your muscles to get them to react the way that you direct them to act. When you warm up, you’re priming those pathways. That kind of priming will increase your muscle memory for later down the line when you want your muscles to recall what you taught them during your private lesson.
6. Increased endurance
Private fencing lessons are short – twenty minutes or so. That might not sound like a long time but it really is! When you’re going full bore to repeat a big fencing motion again and again, it’s easy to get worn out halfway into a fencing lesson. If that happens, you’re not going to get as much out of the lesson as you should. This is where the warm up comes in, as warming up has been shown to be an effective way to improve endurance during physical activity.
This can also help greatly if you’ve got a private lesson scheduled near to a fencing class, as you’ll be able make it through the physical exertion of both. Endurance is not to be taken lightly for fencers!
7. Lowers soreness
Sore muscles are of course a natural part of any sport, including fencing. While we’re certainly ok with a level of soreness, extreme pain should not be a necessity for fencers. Warming up prior to your private lesson will help lower the inflammation in the muscles and prevent tears. When you warm up, you’re literally “warming” the temperature of your muscles, and as a result you’ll prevent them from hurting after practice. This is very important in a private lesson where you’re going to be demanding those muscles to move in potentially new ways, which is more likely to result in soreness.
8. Loss of instructional time
If you aren’t warm enough when your lesson begins, then your fencing coach is going to start more slowly with you. Basically, you’re going to get a warm up anyway because your coach is going to know how important it is to do it! Imagine you’ve got a twenty minute lesson and you spend four minutes of that essentially warming up, you’ve lost twenty percent of your private lesson time! That’s just not efficient. It’s so simple to warm up before, and that four minutes before just isn’t as valuable as the same amount of time when your coach is spending on new techniques or sharpening your current ones.
9. It’s a transferable skill
Warming up is a great habit that isn’t just for your fencing lesson, it’s for all kinds of sports activities. For example when you go skiing or snowboarding, you’ll see a lot of people who just go straight off the lift without warming up or stretching at all. The reason? They think it’s just a fun activity. But in reality it is a sport activity!
If you condition yourself to properly warm up and stretch prior to private fencing lessons, group classes, and competitions, you’ll naturally do it before any sport activity. Whether you’re going for a swim, playing beach volleyball, or going for a round of tennis on the neighborhood court, you’ll be in the habit of warming up. That’s a great habit to get in!
Basics of a fencing private lesson warm up
There are just a few basics that you should keep in mind when you’re doing your warm up before your private fencing lesson.
The precise amount of time that you warm up before a private fencing lesson depends on a few factors. If you’re taking a group class right before your private lesson, then obviously you’re warmed up already. If not, then you need to spend a minimum of ten – fifteen minutes warming up. Any less than that and you won’t get enough, so don’t try to cheat it! On the other side, you can take longer and it’s great. Some people love long warm ups, as in thirty to forty-five minutes. That’s totally fine. The point is to get something that works well for you.
So much of what makes the warm up worthwhile is getting that heart rate up. There are plenty of ways to do that, either through a short run if you’ve got some space or just jumping jacks or jumping rope exercises. Whatever works for you. Do your cardio before you stretch, but keep it light. You want to just be breaking a sweat, your heart pumping but not out of control. You should get that warm rush of blood flowing into your skin, enough that you’re breathing deeply.
Again, keep this light and keep it simple. Stretch out the muscles that you’re going to be using, think shoulder stretches and deep lunges. Stretching properly is going to help you with your posture, so don’t forget about your lower back and neck. Do a wide variety of whatever specific stretches your coach recommends, and take your time with them.
Your coach is by far your best source of information on how to warm up! Talk to them about what form to use, which movements to focus on, and how best to target your cardio. Some coaches have specific warm ups that they give to all of their fencers – just ask!
However you warm up, it’s so so important to do this before EVERY private fencing lessons. There’s never an excuse not to take just a few minutes to get your body ready. You’ll get more out of your fencing lesson!
Roland (Rollie) Frye
Excellent article. I have a follow-up question. I generally have my lessons immediately after fencing for anywhere from an hour to 2 1/2 hours. At that point I am MORE than wormed up and my muscles may actually be too tired to take full advantage of the lesson. How long (if at all) should my break be between fencing and the lesson? Thanks, Rollie Frye
think you should listen to your body. If you are too tired to focus then rest just enough time to take the lesson. If you are good to go, then you can start right away. Obviously you are warmed up after the fencing, so no need to redo. It never hurts to do some stretching, actually it would be a good thing anyway, before and after the lesson.
Hope this helps.