Running is often a common choice for people who want to lose weight, stay fit, or simply be healthy. Some prefer to start the day with it, others like to do it after returning from work. After putting on their laces, runners tend to take off. This is a big no, as it is necessary to spend time on warm-up exercises before running. A pre-run warm-up helps prepare your body for the physical activity you are about to do. It also helps in many ways. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t skip warm-up exercises before running and discover some of the best warm-up exercises possible.
Benefits of warming up before running
Warming up may seem like a minor and insignificant aspect of your training, it’s actually very important for a safe and successful running experience, says fitness expert Aminder Singh of Team Aminder fame.
1. Warming up prevents injuries
When you warm up properly, the risk of sprains and muscle injuries is significantly reduced. Cold muscles are more vulnerable to injury without warming up, especially when subjected to rapid movements. On the other hand, proper preparation helps improve blood flow to the muscles, making them more flexible and less prone to injury.
2. Warming up increases flexibility and mobility
The mobility of important joints like the ankles and hips is improved by warming up. A smoother, more efficient stride during your run depends on this expanded range of motion. Joint pain and increased muscle tension caused by stiff or tight joints can increase the risk of injury.
3. Warming up improves muscle function
Warming up causes increased blood flow to your muscles. As a result, they become warmer, more elastic and more responsive. Warmer muscles contract and relax more effectively, improving the range of motion and power of your run, the expert tells Health Shots.
4. Warming up improves muscle activation
Since cold muscles are less sensitive, running efficiency may be affected. Your central nervous system is stimulated by a proper warm-up, preparing your muscles for movement. This improves coordination and muscle activation when running.
5. Warming up improves activation of the cardiovascular system
Your cardiovascular system is warmed up during a warm-up to prepare it for the rigors of running. By doing so, you can reduce your risk of developing heart problems and ensure that your body can efficiently deliver oxygen to your working muscles.
Best Warm-Up Exercises for Runners
Any runner, whether beginner, intermediate or professional, should include warm-up activities because they help the body prepare for the physical demands of running. Try these exercises, suggests Aminder Singh.
1. Ankle mobility exercises
• Sit with your legs spread out in front of you.
• Your ankle should be rotated clockwise as well as counterclockwise as you lift one leg off the ground.
• Slowly swing your foot left to right and up and down to perform ankle swings.
• To increase ankle mobility, repeat these movements for approximately 30 seconds per ankle.
For stable foot placement and running form, you need sufficient ankle mobility, says the expert.
2. Hamstring Stretch
• When standing, place your feet hip-width apart.
• With your left foot remaining straight, step forward with your right foot.
• Keep your back straight while gradually bending your hips to reach your right foot.
• Hold the stretch in each leg for 20 to 30 seconds while feeling your hamstrings lightly pulled.
By lengthening and warming up the hamstring muscles, this exercise promotes flexibility and prevents tension.
3. Lateral Body Stretch
• Place your feet shoulder-width apart when standing.
• Straighten your left arm by lifting it above your head.
• Reaching out with your left hand, slowly bend your body to the right.
• After 20 to 30 seconds, switch sides.
The oblique muscles, which are crucial for stability while running and give a good stretch to your torso, are activated and prepared by stretching the body sideways.
4. Arm circles with forward bend
• Start with your feet hip-width apart as you stand.
• Your arms should be at your sides.
• Create small circles with your arms and gradually enlarge them.
• For about 15 to 20 seconds, continue making the circles while flexing your hips.
Arm circles promote flexibility and prevent stiffness by warming the shoulder joints, upper body and lower back.
5. Neck rotation
• While standing, keep your feet hip-width apart.
• Bring your right ear closer to your right shoulder as you tilt your head to the right.
• Tilt your head to the left side after turning your head back and bringing your chin toward your chest.
• Repeat the action by rotating the neck in a circle for 15 to 20 seconds in each direction.
Your neck muscles help you keep a balanced posture while running, so this workout ensures they are adequately warmed up.
How long to warm up before running?
Slowing down and being deliberate while focusing on each muscle group throughout these exercises is the key to an effective warm-up. Make sure your body is properly warmed up for your race by spending about 5 to 10 minutes on your warm-up routine.
Every runner’s routine should include warm-up activities, and the time allocated to them can have a big impact on performance. The type of race or race a runner is preparing for, their personal fitness level, and their particular goals all play a role in how much time they should spend on warm-up exercises.
The warm-up time for a 100 meter sprint is indeed shorter than for longer races. It’s best to generate the explosive power and speed needed for sprinting with a well-designed warm-up. A sprinter who overdoes his warm-up can deplete important energy reserves that should be conserved for the actual race. This is especially true since a 100 meter sprint requires only a few seconds of intense effort.
A 5 to 10 minute warm-up is usually enough for a 100 meter sprint. This period of time allows the necessary physiological adaptations without depleting energy reserves.
It is important to emphasize that the main goal of a sprinter’s warm-up is to feel prepared and ready for the race, not to cause fatigue. It’s true that overwarming, such as doing cardio or excessive static stretching, can lead to loss of energy and poor performance. But remember that everyone has different preferences and needs. Depending on their previous experience and physical response, some sprinters may need a significantly longer or shorter warm-up period.