There’s an asymmetric profile to the advantages of warming up before heading out on a run – it helps to materially decrease the risk of injury as by ignoring or rushing a warmup, you’re more likely to pull a muscle, tear a tendon, or tweak a joint. Also, I find that if I don’t warm up but rather go straight into a run, it’s simply harder to sustain the pace, and I’m more likely to burn out quicker. This, in turn, makes me feel demotivated and discouraged from running again; cue the spiral of unfavorable results! This post is a brief overview of my 4 favorite warm-up stretches which you might give a try next time you’re about to go for your run!
Warming up helps blood flow to all the muscles you’ll shortly be using, and it lubricates the joints with synovial fluid which helps absorb the impact of running. Further, by gradually increasing your heart rate it’ll help you find a rhythm that you’ll be able to keep for longer.
I always start out with a brisk walk as it helps ease into the movement, it takes your body through the range of motion, mimicking the exercise at hand and firing up the right muscles. After 5 minutes or so, I start feeling warm, will add a 2-minute jog and then revert back to walking.
Once you’re properly warmed up (typically after 5 minutes or so), start with dynamic stretches. Unlike static stretches where you hold a muscle for a longer period of time in a static position (often in excess of 30 seconds) here, the stretches are short but not rushed. In a controlled manner, you use movements (stretches) to improve range of motion. Aside from jumping jacks, side shuffle, backward jogs, burpees, squats etc (all of which are popular ways of warming up, below are a few legs stretches that are quick and easy to do.
1) STEPPING LUNGE
Stand with your legs a shoulder-width apart, in a parallel position, ensuring you maintain a good neutral posture. Bend the left knee and lunge forward onto your right foot. Go as far as you are comfortable ensuring the right knee doesn’t bend past the toes. Try to keep the hips ‘square’, without collapsing onto one side or the other. Then straighten the back leg (without locking the knee). Increase the stretch to the extent you feel comfortable by lowering the hips. Engage the throughout as it will help protect the lower back. Hold for a couple of seconds and then step forward into a lunge with the other leg.
- LEG EXTENSOR STRETCH (similar to butt kicks)
Standing tall, bend the left knee behind you, bring your heel toward your gluteus and swing the right arm back and left arm forward. Repeat on the other side, and try to do at least 10 on each side.
- LEG FLEXOR STRETCH
With your feet parallel, stand upright and extend forward the left arm, whilst bending your right knee at 90 degrees in front of you. Try to extend the calf so that it’s in line with your leg, creating a straight leg per the below image, parallel to the ground. Really engage your quads whilst you extend the leg. Then return to the original position and repeat with your other leg.
Once you’re used to the leg flexor and extensor kick (stretch #2, above) perhaps combine the two – start by standing tall, walk forward whilst kicking your heels toward your gluteus and alternating between high knees. This will help stretch your quads particularly. Butt kicks with high knees, plus a straight kick!
- PLANTAR FLEXOR STRETCH
With hands on the hips, lift the left leg slightly off the ground, ensuring the knee is straight and aligned with the leg. Point the toes straight out in line with the knee, and then reverse this flexion by pointing the toes upward, and then return to your starting position. Repeat this on your right leg, and then a further 9 times on each leg.
Below is a neat variant to assist in stretching the calves, and can be dispatched on any curb in the country
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