It’s been five years now since I have incorporated running into my lifestyle. It took some time for my body to adapt to the rigors of running after decades of being a cyclist. Now, my body enjoys the running (my mind sometimes does not!) and the aches and pains that are often associated with running are no longer commonplace.
Integrating a warm up routine has helped tremendously with this as well as recovery after long or high intensity runs. But I want to share a simple warm-up routine that I implement before my runs now. But first, why is a warm-up important?
In working with running clients I always want to know what they are doing for a warm-up and also recovery. Too frequently they cite that they “take it easy” for the first mile or so as a warm up. While it is wise to move into the run slowly, this does not constitute a good or proper warm-up in my opinion.
A warm-up should be just that. Warming up the body, gradually raising the heart rate while moving in multiple planes to literally warm up cold, stiff soft tissue; your muscles! The act of running is very linear as we move in a singular plane, the sagittal plane. When we move front to back as in walking or running we are moving in the sagittal plane. Also, for most of us, we may not be fast runners, and this means that are joints are not moving into as great a ranger of motion. Think about the difference between sprinting and walking. A sprinter is literally off the ground when they stride, with hips, knees and ankles at tight angles.
Look at the photos below. On the left is Usain Bolt, arguably the fastest human in the world a few years ago. Both feet are off the ground, and his right hip is extended with the knee bent at more than 90 degrees. On the right is a slower paced runner and you can see where there is less extreme mobility in the hips, knees and ankles. Most of us will lean more toward the photo on the right with faster runners in more of a mid range.
Yet, both the slower paced runner and Usain Bolt will benefit from a good warm up. If Usain doesn’t have a intensely thorough warm up, he risks a serious injury. If the slower paced runner avoids a warm up it will take up perhaps precious limited time that she has to run. Her warm up allows her to get into a steady pace faster, also helps keep her injury free and she will put her joints into a greater range of motion than she will experience when she runs. This results in much better joint mobility and healthier feet, ankles, knees and hips.
A warm-up is not “stretching”. Static stretching should be avoided at all costs before an activity such as running. In short, it sets you up for risk of an injury, specifically at tendons. The warm-up that I use is more about mobility, moving up and down off the floor, activating musculature in different planes of movement and incorporating balance as well. Having good mobility keeps me safe in my body. If I lose my balance can I cartch myself in a safe way in which I won’t hurt myself?