Warming Up & Stretching

WarmUpStretch

Do you ever skip warming up or stretching?  Yes, I am guilty of both.

Warming up is a very important component to all exercise, especially running.  Warming up not only gets you ready for a good run, it also decreases the chance of injury.  When you are warming up you are increasing blood flow to your muscles, as well as increasing heart rate and breathing rate.  Warming up helps to prevent injury by warming up and loosening the muscles you will be using while running.

Before you warm up it is important to know which type of warm up to do.  A common error in warming up is to perform static stretches. Remember back in elementary school when you would sit and reach for your toes to stretch?  That is a form of static stretching.  It is not beneficial to runners!

Why?

If you were to static stretch before a run, you would have a greater chance of tearing a muscle, tendon, or ligament because your body is not warmed up yet.  Cold muscles, ligaments, and tendons are much easier to injure.

A hamstring tear is very common in runners who begin without warming up.  The outside of your leg will turn black and blue, and not look pretty!

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So… prior to exercise you should  be doing a dynamic warmup. And what exactly is that you ask?

A dynamic warmup is a series of moves that are specific to your exercise that will warm up your muscles and prepare you for exercise.

A few different types of warm up exercises are:

  • Walking calf raises
  • Walking toe touches
  • Jumping jacks
  • Front leg swings
  • Side leg swings
  • Mountain Climbers

Once you a done exercising it is important that you do NOT skip stretching!  I’ll admit that I have skipped stretching in the past and have paid for it all day.  It is especially important after a longer run to stretch.  I have paid the price by having sore hamstrings all day, and the “Charlie Horse” feeling symptom in my legs due to not stretching.

Lactic acid accumulates in your muscles while you are running. Stretching after a run will help flush out that lactic acid and keep you flexible. Also, while you are running your muscles are constantly contracting. Stretching afterwards helps to elongate  those muscles and will prevent further injury. There are also other benefits to stretching such as: a more flexible body, more gains in strength and endurance, better range of motion, you will recover quicker, and the simple fact that you will feel better!

Just like warming up, you want your stretches to be dynamic.  Here are a couple dynamic stretches:

  • Front leg swings
  • Side leg swings
  • Walking toe touches
  • Stand still, reaching down for toes
  • Front lunges
  • Iron cross

5 thoughts on “Warming Up & Stretching

  1. I wonder what your take is on stretching, now that the actual medical literature is showing that stretching before exercise does not in fact prevent injury. In my mind, your site and those of many others do a disservice to the athletic community by repeating what were basically unproven ‘old wives tales’ about stretching and are now being disproved.

  2. Hi there,
    I was wondering if you perform your dynamic stretches right off the bat? Or, do you do warm up first (such as a slow jog for 10 inutes) and then do your streches? Which is better? Thanks!

    • Hi Carissa,

      I always start with a dynamic warm-up (listed in the first set of bullets), run, and then follow with dynamic stretching. A lot of the dynamic stretches will be similar/same as the warm up. I aim for 12 repetitions of each stretch (per leg). I hope this helps!
      -Courtney

    • Britany,

      To do an iron cross:

      Lay on your back, legs straight out, and arms out to the side. Then swing your right legs up towards your left arm, hold for a few seconds and then return. Repeat on other side with left leg swinging towards right arm.

      I do each leg about 10 times. The more you do this and stretch the easier it will be. It is okay if your leg is not quite as flexible at first.

      Courtney

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