Long gone are the days when a quick static stretch would be considered a proper warm up before a run. In fact, we now understand that static stretches do very little to prepare the body for exercise, and can actually reduce power output and predispose you to overuse injuries when done before running.
But a proper runner-specific warm-up sequence will reduce your risk of developing an injury while enhancing performance. That’s why dynamic stretching is a more effective way to prep for a run.
Dynamic stretches are exaggerated movements, drills and light strength exercises that use the muscles themselves to improve flexibility and mobility, rather than simply holding a position for a predetermined period of time.
Static vs. Dynamic Stretching
Static stretching will improve range of motion and flexibility, but can also decrease measured strength and power output, which may decrease in running and jumping performance. It’s recommended to perform more dynamic warm-ups, which can improve power output for running and jumping activities.
Benefits of Stretching
The purpose of a warm up is to prepare the body to perform the specific activity, with gradually increasing heart rate as well as blood flow to the muscles. It should also help improve the range of motion of joints, which may assist with flexibility and help prevent injuries.
An effective warm-up routine will:
- Raise your core body temperature
- Open capillaries in the extremities and promote oxygenated blood flow
- Increase heart rate and respiration (metabolically priming you for running)
- Lubricate the joint capsules of the ankles, knees and hips
- Improve range of motion of muscle and connective tissues
- Activate less active muscle groups after sedentary behavior like sitting at work
- Enhance performance
When and How to Warm Up
Ideally, a warm-up routine that lasts about 10 minutes should take place immediately before a run. This ensures you’ll reap of the benefits of the routine, like an elevated heart rate and respiration.
Even if you must wait 10 to 15 minutes before starting a run, you’ll benefit more than simply skipping a dynamic warm-up routine. Some dynamic stretches include leg swings, donkey kicks and even bodyweight squats or single-leg deadlifts. For runners, it’s most beneficial to develop a specific routine that combines several different stretches.
In fact, most runners can use the same type of warm-up sequence for every type of run that they do. But if you’re a more advanced runner who’s completing challenging interval workouts or running fast races, you may want a slightly longer warm up that includes drills and/or skipping variations.
Skipping and drills (like A-Skip, B-Skip, Carioca, high-knees, and others) prime the nervous system for more dynamic movement, like running close to your top speed or fast sprints.
They also ensure the body is fully warm, flexible, responsive and ready for the harder work of running very fast.
If any of the exercises mentioned here happen to cause pain or discomfort, you can simply skip them or find a similar replacement. None of these movements should cause pain. In fact, any painful sensations should be discussed with your doctor.
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