If you’re the type of athlete who likes to hit the ground running, it’s worth considering a change in your regime. Warming up before you begin your training in earnest helps your body to avoid a running injury; it also helps you to perform at your peak by getting your muscles ready and easing into things gradually. Not sure what to do? Follow our guide to how to warm up for a run.
What does a warm-up achieve?
Most runners know that gentle activity and stretches are recommended before a strenuous workout. But do you know why they’re important? Here are 3 reasons to include a warm-up in your routine.
- Prepare your muscles. A warm-up literally warms you up; raising the temperature inside your muscles, which will loosen them up and prepare them for the challenge ahead.
- Increase your heart rate. Starting gently helps to increase your heart rate gradually, so that by the time you start the main part of your run, you’ll be up to the challenge.
- Protect yourself against injury. Many common sports injuries could be avoided if only the runner had warmed up first. Warm-ups do this by getting the blood flowing faster to all areas of the body, making your muscles and ligaments more flexible and giving your body the opportunity to ‘go through the motions’ to practice the movements it will make during your workout. Muscles that are loose and flexible rather than ‘tight’ are much less likely to sustain a strain or a tear.
How do you do it?
The question of how to warm up before a run is not without controversy. You may have heard conflicting advice on stretches and exercises – so even if you’re convinced of the benefits of a warm-up, it can be hard to know what to include in your routine. This simple, 2-step plan is all you need.
- Gentle cardio exercise. Walk or jog at a comfortable pace for about 5 minutes. The aim is to up your heart rate and respiratory rate just a little, so that you break a sweat and get slightly breathless.
- Dynamic stretching. These are stretches that don’t simply hold the muscle in place; instead, you perform a whole movement that uses the muscles in the way they’ll be challenged when you run. So, lunges and short runs that lift your knees to 90 degrees from your body are included in this category. Try these dynamic stretches from Runner’s World.
Should you include static stretches – the kind where you hold a pose for 30 seconds or more – before your run? We advise you to save these for your post-run warm-down. Sports scientists now maintain that static stretches included as part of a warm-up can actually make your body work less efficiently, and could actually slow you down.
Make the change today
Now that you know how to warm up before a run, why not incorporate a warm-up into your next training session? If you have a running app or GPS watch, you can track your performance to see if the changes to your routine have a positive effect on your stats. Even if you don’t see a measurable improvement in your pace, one thing’s for sure: you’ll be doing your body a favour by making strains, sprains and other painful running injuries much less likely.