Warming up and cooling down key to a healthy run

dawnWhite

How many of you go out for a run without warming up? It’s important to give your muscles time to warm up prior to your workout. It only takes a few minutes and can mean the difference between an injury and a great workout. Once your workout is complete, take a few minutes for recovery and cool down stretching.

I like to begin by warming up my joints. I begin with neck circles and progress to arm circles, hip circles, wrist and ankle twists. Following the joint mobility, I do some dynamic stretching including leg swings, forward and backward skipping, lunges, marching, and form drills. There are other dynamic exercises you can perform, these are just a few of the ones I recommend. I know some runners who never stretch before or after a run. I think those people are few and far between…most of us will benefit from regular stretching before and after a workout. In fact, I decided to see if I fit into that “few and far between” category of people. For a few months I did no regular stretching before or after my runs and found that over time I was pretty tight and much more inflexible than normal. I am back to my regular stretching routine and recommend stretching for all runners. Following the dynamic stretching, ease into your workout by running at an easy pace for 5-10 minutes and then continue with your regular workout for the day.

Once your workout is complete, take some time to recover by jogging at an easy pace or walking for 5-10 minutes or more as needed. After this stretch your quads, calves, hamstrings, etc. using the static stretching we all are used to doing before a run. Static stretching elongates your muscles and increases flexibility. These stretches should be held for 10-30 seconds each and repeated as necessary. Static stretching after a workout will keep the muscle tissue healthy and help with your range of motion.

Another way to warm-up and cool down is to use a foam roller. Foam Rolling is defined as “self-myofascial release-self massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points.” As you release the trigger points, movement increases and your performance will improve. Runners have a tendency to be stiff and inflexible unless they take measures to loosen up those tight areas. Foam rolling can be performed before a run, following a run, or on rest days. To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your body weight. Roll slowly up and down the muscle as you feel it release. If you find a sore spot, spend some extra time rolling that area. As you regularly foam roll, you will notice an increased flexibility in your previously tight areas. Time to get rolling!

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