Beginner Runner Tip #6
Get Ready to Go : Warm-up and cool-down
Ok, you’re fitted, kitted, hydrated and fuelled – it’s time to head out the door!
Before you start running, you need to warm-up your muscles. Warming up correctly will lower the likelihood of injury and reduce the chance of your muscles feeling tight during your run. The best way to warm up for running is with a dynamic stretching routine. Unlike static stretches, Dynamic Stretching includes movements more similar to running. These stretches will raise your heart rate, increase blood flow to your muscles and prime your neuromuscular system for the task ahead.
Here’s a link to Dynamic Stretches for Runners with more information on dynamic stretching and some suggested exercises you can add into your routine.
To finish off your warm-up, spend the first five minutes walking before breaking into your run. Once running, go slowly at first and build up your pace as you warm up. This will make sure you increase your output as your body gets ready to handle the strain, and is also good for teaching pacing for when you are running longer distances or taking part in races. Already able to run for 30 minutes or so without stopping? Instead of the walk to begin with, you can jog slowly before moving into your run, but always go slower in the first five minutes than your normal running pace to allow a complete warm-up.
The Cool Down
At the end of your run it’s a good idea to do a cool-down. This will allow your heart rate to drop while keeping your muscles moving. In the last five minutes of your run, slow to a jog or walk to let your breathing and heart rate drop. Doing this keeps blood going through your tired muscles and will help reduce your muscles stiffening up. As a beginner you’ll often find yourself with shaky legs when you finish running. This is just a symptom of tired muscles. Walking will let your muscles rest and give you back full control. Keep moving until the shakiness has subsided and you’ll know you’ve cleared out the lactate build-up and be ready to finish your workout.
Completing Your Cool Down
Ok, you’re just back from your run. You’re hot, sweaty and probably just want to hit the
couch shower. Before you do, grab a drink and do a stretch session, this time doing static stretches. Static stretches involve targeting one muscle group and holding the pose. Try to hold these stretches for 30-45 seconds to trigger the neuro-muscular response that loosens and elongates the muscle. These static stretches will help keep blood flowing through your muscles after your run (helps improve recovery), and doing them often will increase your overall flexibility and range-of-motion.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between holding long stretches after a run and prevention of muscle soreness. This is because the soreness is usually caused by micro-tears of the muscles, something the stretching won’t get rid of. However, if you find you’ve got some muscle soreness from yesterday’s run, doing a static stretching routine will help alleviate post-run stiffness. My general rule is to stretch after every run, and also on your rest days. On your rest days, try to fit in a longer session so you can really work on improving range-of-motion, particularly through your hips and the back of your legs. Here is a good stretch routine from Olympic marathon competitors Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan.
If you’re already quite flexible or a bit of a yoga fan, I like this yoga-based post run stretching routine:
By following the above tips and completing a proper warm-up and cool down before and after your runs you will help minimise injury risk and set your muscles up for your following runs. Couple this with a good static stretching routine after your runs and on your rest days and you will also improve your range-of-motion, helping you to become a more efficient runner.
Happy running everyone!
Get Going, Get Running!