5 Ways Warming Up Will Save Your Life

Written by Leryn Turlington

January 30, 2017

Jumping right in at your half-hour call time? Not so fast! Five reasons warming up is NOT to be missed.

1. It Sets Up Healthy Habits

Your body has an incredible memory and unconsciously transforms repeated behavior into habit. The idea of “Practice makes perfect,” or, procedural memory, can be misleading because if mistakes are repeated in your practice they will be recorded in your muscle memory without regard for accuracy. When you jump into rehearsal without warming up, you run the risk of remembering how you performed that day and repeating it every time after. Were you tired? Distracted? Hungry? Cold? All of these affect how your body and vocal chords move and retain that movement. A singer who is cold may practice with tension in his or her shoulders; a dancer who is tired may not support their movement with the appropriate strength to prevent injury; an actor who hasn’t warmed up the mouth may relax into poor diction. If you warm up and rehearse at your best – you will undoubtedly perform at your best, too.

2. It Prevents Injury

As mentioned above, all of the bad habits you can develop in rehearsal have the potential to cause an injury. A singer or actor may damage their voice over time with too much neck tension. If a dancer hasn’t warmed up the full extension of their plié, jumps and leaps can cause impact or sudden injury like a rolled or fractured ankle. Pulled hamstrings are also very common in physical actors who don’t warm up, which can be caused from even a simple extension of the leg or lower back. In college theatre programs, not only are rehearsal periods brisk but they are performed in conjunction with regular class schedules that are laden with physically and mentally exhausting coursework. In summer and regional theatres, the rehearsal periods are even shorter and often more than a traditional 40-hour work-week. Then come tech rehearsals, and then an audience. There is no good time to get an injury.

3. It Generates Energy

There are many ways low energy can manifest in a performance. It can be a lowering of stakes and excitement in the performers, low vocal energy, a slow pace, a distracted and fidgety audience, as well as distracted and error-prone performers. Whether you’re coming from a long day of classes, a long day of work at your day job, a long week of tech or a luxuriously sufficient night’s sleep, warming up raises your heartbeat to increase blood flow to every part of the body, making it reactive and alive to the intentions your brain passes on. It’s a delicate balance to be both stretched out and free of tension while also amping up your energy, but it can be done!

4. It Supports Clarity of Mind

If a fidgety and distracted audience is bad, a fidgety and distracted actor is worse. Classes, work and tech can be exhausting, but have you ever had to perform after a breakup, argument with a friend, failing an assignment or other personal struggles? Taking time to warm up the body can increase focus in the brain which helps to elevate you to your new existence for the next two hours. It is much needed time to let go so you can inhabit the mind of someone else without your day influencing your character’s thought processes and decisions. Think of each exhale as stress leaving the body and each inhale, pieces of your character.

5. It Helps You Go Farther

When your body is safe, your mind is active, and your baggage is at the door there is no limit to what you can accomplish. When a rehearsal period ends, the work is only beginning! Every show is an opportunity to improve and explore your craft. It is, of course, always important to stay true to the director and the rehearsal process but the specialty of a great actor is making the life you live out true and honest, over and over again. Even acrobats of the heart need conditioning, and such is the truly remarkable life of a thespian.

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Leryn Turlington is an interdisciplinary artist living in Chicago, IL. She has appeared on stage at the Drury Lane Theatre, Marriott Theatre and has participated in collaborative projects such as HybridSalon and cabarets around the city. She is represented by Paonessa Talent and is a proud graduate from Florida State University’s Musical Theatre program.