It is a tempting thing for runners to just lace up their shoes and head out the door. Especially when people sometimes have trouble finding the time to run, the desire to just get out and get the run done, can be very strong. Doing a short warm up before running is very important though and will not only make the run more enjoyable, it will drastically reduce the risk of being injured.
A good warm up gets your blood flowing and prepares your cardiovascular system and muscles for the activity ahead. It also helps you get mentally prepared for a run giving you mind a chance to warm up at the same time as your muscles.
Making sure that your body has the right fuel to work with is an important part of preparing for a run. If you have not had enough to eat your muscles will be weaker, you will tire more easily, your running efficiency will be lower, and you will enjoy yourself less. On the other hand, if there is too much in your stomach you will feel bloated and uncomfortable and run the risk of cramping. Check out this post for a list of idea on what to eat pre-run depending on how much time you have.
Start with a Walk
Many runners scoff at walking but it is a great way to start your warmup. Walking for about five minutes will help your body begin preparing for the run ahead. It is a gentle way to get your joints moving, and you muscles warming up.
Add Dynamic Stretches
The advice that used to be commonly given was to do static stretches before a run. This is where you move into a stretching position and hold that stretch for 20-30 seconds. Recent studies have actually shown that this kind of stretching has a higher rate of injury.
Dynamic stretching uses controlled body movements to help warm up the and stretch the muscles. Try some of these exercises during your warmup.
Forward Lunge – Step forward with your right foot with your knee bent so that the top of your leg is parallel to the ground. Your left leg should be bent close to 90 degrees at the knee. Return to a standing position and repeat alternating sides.
Leg Swings – Find a wall, or fence, or tree that you can use for balance. Then swing your right leg forward and backward with your feet facing forward. Next swing your right leg side to side with your fee facing perpendicular to the wall (or tree). Turn so that you can swing your left leg and repeat.
Washing Machine – Stand with your back straight and rotate your upper body from side to side. Try to focus so that the rotation comes from your hips.
Butt Kicks – Stand with your back straight. Walk forward and with each step bring your foot back so that it lightly touches the back of your buttox.