Updated: Aug 15, 2020
How many times have you come home from work, only to drop everything just to rush out the door to get those miles in? You hit the road, but you notice your body feels tired and sluggish for the first mile or so. You wake up the next morning feeling a little stiff or extra sore, and perhaps you notice an old injury flaring up which you know is going to prevent you from hitting the trails again tonight. So what’s the problem?
You aren’t warming up properly. And no. Static stretching at the beginning of a workout does not count as your warm up. In fact it’s something you should be avoiding until you get back from your run. As recreational runners, a huge challenge for some us seems to be not taking the time to warmup before we hit the trails. That’s bad bad bad! Not only does skipping a warmup make us more prone to injury, but it actually takes away from the run itself. When we do not warmup, our body knows it making our worst nightmare come true; our body becomes less efficient and we are not working as hard as we could be. That first mile where you feel tired and sluggish? That’s because your body is using all of its energy trying to wake up your muscles!
The purpose of any warmup is to prepare the body for rigorous movement. The goal of any warmup should be to start sweating so we can increase our internal body temperature. When we raise our body temperature, it prepares our nerves and muscles for the strain we are about to put on them. Blood gets pushed away from our organs and is directed to the muscle groups we are using. This means oxygen is being released to our muscles. To make a long story short, this process gives our muscles access to more fuel during the workout enhancing our overall efficiency (aka every runners dream).
In addition to efficiency, our metabolic rate increases, our joint stability and reflexes awaken, and our tendon and ligament elasticity loosens up. Muscle fatigue is delayed which makes our tissue less susceptible to damage overall decreasing our risk of injury. Run faster? Be Less sore? Burn more calories? Avoid knee injuries? Yes please!
In most fitness routines, the warmup consists of a rehearsal series of movements that mimic the routine that’s about to come. Since we are specifically talking about running here, and running on the spot wouldn’t make sense as an effective warm up (nor would it be inspiring), we should be addressing all of the major muscle groups we actually use during our run.
Not only should we be waking up those glutes and hips, but we need to be saying 'Hi!' to our quads, hamstrings, calves, core, arms, back and shoulders. We should be doing this for about 5 minutes, or until we start to sweat just a little bit. The movements should be dynamic (think squats, lunges and planks) while static stretching (holding your stretches and not moving) should be saved to the end of your workout when your muscles are the most pliable and ready for the flexibility.
At the end of the day, we make time for what we want to make time for. If we are already dedicating a specific amount of time to our running, we should most definitely be taking the time to warm up. Most of us run to be better than we were yesterday, and adding a quick, 5 minute warmup routine will only help us become so. Here’s to the grind.
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