For the busy runner it may be tempting to throw on your running shoes and bolt out the door at full sprint, but current science says not so fast. A proper warm-up and cool down are the key ingredients in the recipe for a successful run.
Before we equip you with everything you need to know about an effective warm-up, let’s cover the science in 50 words or less. Science time:
Your body is a tight system of muscles that work in balance to keep you functioning. Recent studies have discounted the value of pre workout stretching (static) in injury prevention or performance. Warming up, however, is the gradual introduction of an activity to prepare the body for exertion.
Effective warm-ups lead to better overall performance and less injury by gradually increasing your heart rate, gently engaging your muscles, joints and bones, and putting your neuromuscular system into run mode
- Start with a 5 – 8 minutes of light activity. This may include marching in place, walking, jogging, or shuffling. The key word here is “slowly.” It will take some concentration but starting your run at a noticeably slow pace will pay dividends at the end of your run.
- Next, gradually increase your pace to your target running pace. They key word here is “gradually.” Think of your run like starting a car. You wouldn’t start your engine and put the pedal to the metal. Instead, a gradual ramp-up of running increases blood flow to your muscles in a way that keeps you safer throughout your workout.
- Concentrate on your form, posture, and technique. The key word here is “concentrate.” Runners, particularly new runners, should use this time to set their form and position. In doing so, you send messages to your neuromuscular system to prepare for running. We will go into form in great detail in a future article but check out this article by USAF Marathon for guidance on technique in the meantime.
Resist the urge to skip your warmup. As tempting as it may be to use the time to pack on an additional mile, effectively warming up will make it possible to run further and faster in the long run.
Skip the static stretching. Recent studies have led to a shift away from static stretching prior to workouts as it’s been proven to not increase performance and in some cases may increase the possibility of injury. Instead dynamic stretching can be used as part of a warm-up routine.
Don’t overexert in your warm-up. For new runners, this may be easier said than done. For reference during a warm-up your breathing should be stable and easy. You should still be able to sing a song or hold a conversation. If you find yourself winded or unable to regulate your breathing slow down.
Whether a new or seasoned runner, a consistent warm-up routine will put you on the path to becoming the best runner you can be. Share your comments below on how your running journey is going and what’s working for you.
Danie is a fitnesspreneur with a passion for bringing total wellness to the communities she serves. A D.C. native, Danie now lives in Houston TX where she owns a mobile training business. She holds a bachelor's, master's and 10+ fitness certifications.