‘Warming up’ is essential before every run: Here’s Why (5 min read)
Dr. William Dao (Osteopath)
DG Health Richmond
A ‘Warm up’ by definition is the preparation before a physical activity or performance. ‘Warming up’ however is not an idea that is exclusive to exercise. For example, a singer can warm up prior to a concert, in which they loosen up their vocal cords, lips and diaphragm before belting out “Horses” to a crowd of drunk millennials. I also warmed up a frozen pizza before devouring it last night! My point being, the definition of a ‘warm up’ is very far reaching and can be utilised in various contexts. Today we focus on why warming up prior to a run could prevent injury and improve performance!
Today, we can generally categorize runners from ‘recreational’ to the ‘elite’. From a snapshot, there appears to be a great difference between somebody who runs for fun on the odd weekend and somebody who runs 100+km per week. Usually the well-seasoned runner has the most up to date technology, apparel and most importantly, shoes that cost more than the average weekly rent in Melbourne. However, running is still running, no matter what you wear or how much you get paid to put one foot in front of the other. And thus, the importance of a proper warm up holds true for all.
Running is a complex task which requires collaborative effort between the cardiovascular, neuromuscular and even endocrine systems. When running, we absorb 1-3x of our body weight through each leg! A good warm up will ensure that all the systems mentioned above are primed for the run ahead which will help:
- Reduce likelihood of acute soft tissue injury
- Decrease spike in perceived effort (especially if in a race scenario)
- Identify any areas which are tight/sore/stiff
- Improve performance
Warm up routines are very individualised for different people. However, some key aspects which should be included are:
- Easy Heart rate raising movements – Simply going for a very slow jog with gradual increases in speed, running on the spot, skipping or brisk walking encourages joints to produce synovial fluid (WD-40 for our joints), shuttles oxygen rich blood to working muscles to feed energy producing cells in our muscles and ensures that your heart is pumping and ready for the task at hand (warming up the engine)
- Dynamic stretches – These movements target both joints and muscles, often mimicking the movements which will soon be adopted in the run ahead. Some examples include:
- Neck/shoulder rolls
- Trunk twists
- Leg swings
- But kicks
- Dynamic stretching to the glutes, hamstrings, and calves
- Muscle activations – Taking the time to contract and “switch on” muscles prior to running will help prepare for the task ahead. This also serves as a good time to check in with different body parts to see if any areas need some further stretching/rolling. Some examples of activations are:
- Glute/hamstring bridges
- Calf raises
- Wall squats/holds
- Plyometric movements – These exercises mimic the high energy ‘bouncy’ demands of running, in which our tendons (especially achilles and plantar fascia) repeatedly store and release energy to propel us forward (think of flicking an elastic band through the air). Some examples include:
- Standing squat jumps
- Star jumps
- Single leg hopping
What to avoid during a warm up:
- Going cold – There is no value in performing a warm up hours before your run. This is because by the time you’re ready to run again, your heart rate, body temperature and muscle activation has returned to pre-warm up levels making your previous efforts redundant
- Static stretching – Static stretching is not useful prior to a run, and can actually increase your chances of having a soft tissue injury, dynamic stretches or some foam rolling are the way to go!
- Eating/drinking large volumes of food – Speaks for itself, but often runners can worry that they haven’t fueled up enough before their event, prompting them to ingest sports drinks and energy bars right before they take off. Eating/drinking whilst experiencing pre race nerves spells disaster, as your body won’t have the time or capacity to properly digest what you’re putting in it which can result in stomach cramps and unwanted pit stops in your race
I hope that the above information gives you value prior to your next run in Lockdown 2.0. Remember to have your mask with you, and respect physical distancing advice!
If you have any questions or queries about running related injuries, please don’t hesitate to give the clinic a call or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
HAPPY RUNNING! ?♂️?♀️??