Warming up before any exercise is important, no matter what season we are in. But with marathon season happening and many people training for longer runs in the colder weather, warming up perhaps takes on an added significance.
The aim of a warm-up is to help warm the muscle, increase circulation and activate muscle firing patterns. Dynamic stretching is a good way to achieve this. Here are my top five for runners:
Keeping your back straight and tall, slowly lunge forwards, alternating legs as you take each step for 10 steps in total.
Side to side lunges
Keeping your back straight and tall, slowly lunge to one side, leading with this leg for 5 steps before returning with side lunges in the opposite direction.
Dynamic hamstring stretches
Holding on for balance, swing your leg out in front of you, keeping it completely straight. Swing back and forth being careful not to over-strain, feeling a stretch in the back of your leg. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Mimic the running action at 25 percent speed for 1 minute, really exaggerating the hip/knee lifts and arm swings.
Stride outs with trunk rotation
As you take a stride with your right leg, perform a slow punching action across your body with your left hand. Allow your trunk to rotate with the movement as you punch the hand over the opposite shoulder. Walk for 1 minute, alternating rotations with each stride.
As a general rule of thumb, I advise my patients, who run at any level of participation, to stick to dynamic stretching for their warm-up and static stretching for their cool down.
Static stretching elongates a muscle to its maximum length. For a cool-down routine this is great as running repeatedly exerts a muscle through a limited scope of its full range. If we weren’t to stretch to the extremities of its length, then a shortening would develop.
Previous evidence has shown that static stretching can target relax the muscles we want to activate, whilst decreasing their ability to store energy—the opposite effect of what we want to achieve pre-run.
Dave Peachy is a Chartered Physiotherapist working for Sussex MSK Partnership East (SMSKPE). He has a background in sports therapy and enjoys the small changes he can make to his patients’ lives by improving their movement and reducing their symptoms, making a big difference to everyday tasks.