You need to Warm-up!
Warm up – it's too important to ignore
Warming up is important before any form of exercise and especially for runners. It’s often forgotten about or not done. It can be a bit boring, you might just want to ‘get going’, you could be short of time… Let’s be honest, if it didn’t have any benefits, none of us would do it, but, there are too many benefits to warming up to ignored.
Warming up simply prepares the body for exercise:
- Nervous system
- Cardio vascular system
- And your mind!
By not warming up, you are putting your body at risk. The chances of tearing muscles and risking other injuries increases greatly without a warm-up, so take your time and factor in a little time pre-run for some gentle preparation.
Start it slowly and think about warming up the whole body rather than just your legs. Getting upper and lower limbs moving will aid blood flow and get the body warm.
You might have been on your feet all day but begin with a walk. Introduce some arm swings and shoulder rotations. A couple of minutes will do.
Break in to a walk/run – a slow shuffle. It is particularly important in cold weather. Get the tendons moving (they are less flexible, tougher and stronger than muscles) and the blood flowing through them. A strained tendon is a world of pain – it’ll take a long time to heel and may involve costly visits to the physiotherapist! We would recommend something like a 3 min shuffle.
Now is the time to stretch, not before you’ve had a chance to get the blood flowing. A relatively short 10 minutes of stretching now will aid your run greatly. You’ll feel much better for it, you’ll perform better and remember, your risk of injury will be greatly reduced.
You might start with some upper body movements, hip circles for example, faster arm circles, body twists etc., then move on to the legs. Work each major muscle group. Stretch the quads, hamstrings, both calf muscles (there’s a longer one underneath the big one you see as your calf, Achilles tendon, hip flexors and ankle.
Stretch but don’t strain is the mantra. Ease in to a stretch position then hold for 30 seconds. Don’t bounce up and down, just relax and stretch keeping your breathing calm and rhythmic. Ease out of it and swap legs to repeat the stretch on the other leg. We would suggest 3x 30 seconds of stretch per muscle on each leg as a minimum. You should find that the muscles eases out and will get ‘longer’, i.e. you’ll be able to get more of a stretch on the muscle.
Ease in to your run
Too many time in the past our training group wanted to get ‘up to pace’ too soon. We were too competitive and just wanted to get on with it but, we were wrong and looking back, we needed to train more like the Kenyans.
I am lucky enough to live near a big park, 20 mins from London Heathrow airport. Many of the Kenyans and other great athletes including Mo Farah base themselves in the area during the summer months as it is a very short flight to all of the big European races they compete in. Kenyans (and Mo) do all of the above. They walk to the park, they all stretch, they then ease in to their run. They run at a pace we can all keep up with. They all shuffle along as a group, but I can tell you that the pace picks up as they warm up – it’s not long before many of us would be hanging on – and by the end of the run, these guys are flying! All this at 6am!!
So, start gently and pick the pace up as you go. Your body will thank you for it.
There is evidence that suggests that post run stretching is extremely important. It has a couple of big benefits:
1 – Gentle stretching now increases the length of the muscles. This is where you can gain long-lasting flexibility
2 – It will make help you recover and ensure that you feel better (less stiff) the next day
Be careful after a very tough session though and only do long slow stretching.