There's no better feeling than waking up early, motivated to get out there and begin running. But skipping that essential ten minute warm-up can turn out to be a recipe for disaster, by causing more harm than you actually realize. A warm-up is required so that your muscles and bones loosen up, preparing you for exercise. It also gradually brings up your heart rate, and gets your body into the right kind of rhythm you need for a good run.
If you feel pain in any part of your body after a run, it could be caused because of an insufficient warm-up routine. Running too fast as soon as you head out may lead to muscle pulls and joint aches, and difficulty in sustaining your pace and energy. The result? Exhaustion and anxiety regarding your next run.
A warm-up routine is looked at by many as a waste of time. This opinion mainly comes from working individuals, who set aside a specific number of minutes in the morning for running. Some of you might start off with a walk and then gradually break into a run. Though recommended otherwise, the right type of warm-up routine will consist of controlled, repetitive movements that mimic the way your muscles and connective tissues will need to move during your activity. This boosts performance, and improves aerobic capacity. What's that, you might ask. It simply refers to the amount of oxygen that your muscles receive for utilization. Therefore, increased aerobic capacity translates to more energy and better speed. Research has shown that this factor accounts for nearly 70% of variations in race performances!
Everybody has a different warm-up routine, so there is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you end up feeling loose and flexible at the end of it. But here are a few recommendations:
The first thing you need to keep in mind when you begin your routine is that you need to gain mobility in your joints, hips, shoulders and knees. Stretching cold muscles is not the right way to start off, so do a few leg and arm swings before you move into dynamic stretches.
Step side to side, like a boxer would, with small steps, keeping the spring action going. Start slow, and gradually build up the intensity, so that you are trying to cover as much ground with as few steps as possible.
Alternate butt kicks with high knees, in a slow and controlled manner. Don't snap your leg out too far or go for a full extension that can strain your knees.
Squats without weights can also work as a great warm-up exercise to loosen up your hips and thighs. Make sure your feet are a little wider than shoulder width, and try to get as low as you can to ensure a good range of motion.
For the first three minutes of your run, walk gently. This is the ideal low-intensity activity that eases your body and puts you in workout mode. Since the action of walking is similar to running, this helps bring up the temperature of the muscles and the core, and enhances blood flow. In simple terms, the brain gets the message that it's time to go!