THE RUNNER’S WARM-UP
Warming up is a vital part of any runners preparations. Failure to warm up can result in injuries and potentially a long-term lay off. Here’s your guide to preparing for a run through a thorough warm up.
Runners are often guilty of skipping the warm-up, and heading straight into a full on run. But doing that is like attempting to start a manual car in third gear – it might just manage it, but the performance will be inefficient, difficult and potentially damaging.
The runner’s warm-up raises body temperature, increases heart rate and mobilises the joints. Furthermore, a warm-up diverts blood away from the internal organs to supply the muscles with the oxygen they require to function efficiently.
An increase in body temperature helps promote the flow of synovial fluid, which is a liquid that surrounds and cushions joint surfaces to reduce friction. Also, synovial fluid makes muscles more pliable and less prone to straining or tearing.
So how should you carry out a warm-up?
Even though running is predominantly a lower-body activity, this does not mean you want to focus purely on a lower body warm-up. Mobilize all the major joints of the body including the neck, shoulders, waist, hips, knees and ankles with dynamic simple movements.
Then, take a walk, gradually increasing your speed and range of movement to break into a slow jog. You should feel slightly warm and breathless as you do this.
Next comes the running-specific moves – to enhance ‘neuromuscular coordination’ so that your running efficiency is maximised and the amount of energy you ‘spend’ at any given effort level is minimized.
Should you stretch before you run?
In a runner’s warm-up should you stretch before a run? This is still a topic of much debate. Studies looking at the inclusion of stretching in a warm-up have not found that it offers any additional injury-prevention benefits over and above a standard warm-up or that it aids performance.
However, if you feel particularly tight or tense in any specific joint or muscle, it is recommend that you follow the general warm-up with stretches to loosen up that area. One thing to bear in mind, never stretch cold muscles. Make sure you do the warm-up first.
Always stretch after exercise !