If you’re born to run, then it may feel like nothing is holding you back once you break past that starting line. But unless you’ve gone through some warm up exercises, you could be setting yourself up for poor performance or even an injury.
Warming up before a race or your morning jog is essential to preventing injury and getting the most out of the exercise. Going from a resting state to a full-out run is a jolt to your body’s muscular and respiratory system. Unless you’re properly warmed up, it’s easy to pull or tweak a muscle, and it will be more difficult to set a sustainable pace.
To help you craft the perfect set of warm-up exercises—one that you can use before your next marathon or 5k—I’ve drawn from the experts at Runners World and the Little Wing professional running team. Here are the basics:
Start With a Walk
Looking for the perfect transition from rest to running? Why not try the exercise that is half way between standing still and running—walking.
Walking will get the kinks out of your joints and muscles without putting enough stress on them for injury. Before a race, walk for 3 to 5 minutes, letting your muscles warm up and helping your blood flow.
The Basics of Dynamic Stretching
When it comes to stretching warm up exercise the way many of us were taught to stretch in middle school gym class is all wrong for warming up. Stretching and holding—where you hold the stretch for as long as 60 seconds—is called “static stretching,” and it can actually contribute to injury when done right before exercising. (Static stretching isn’t all bad; it’s beneficial post-workout and even as a break from your daily routine.)
The kind of stretching you should do before running is called “dynamic stretching.” It takes some of the same stretching motions, but you do them while remaining in motion. Some common and easy dynamic stretches include:
- Knee to chest
- Bear crawl
- Butt kicks
For a demonstration of these stretches and plenty more like them, check out this awesome video from Little Wing.
Get Your Heart Pounding
If you want to be in full running mode right as you cross the starting line, then you need to increase your heart rate and blood flow.
After you’ve done your dynamic stretching, it’s time to ramp up your warm up. Start with a light jog for a few minutes (at least two minutes). Transition into a brisker pace toward the end of your jog, and then decelerate.
Repeat the accelerate/decelerate pattern a few times right before the race starts. By the time the gun goes off, your body will be primed for the perfect race.
Get Out and Race!
Setting a goal, such as a race, is a perfect way to motivate yourself to run regularly; research 5k’s, half marathons, and marathons in your area. If you’re looking for some excitement, try an obstacle course style race such as Tough Mudder.
Just don’t forget to warm up before the big race!
What are some of your favorite warm up exercises? Let us know in the comments sections below!