How to warm up before running — and why

Running is often a common choice of people who want to lose weight or stay in shape or just be healthy. Some prefer starting the day with it, others like to do it after coming back home from work. After lacing up, runners tend to just head out. That’s a big no, as spending some time on warm-up exercises before running is necessary. A pre-run warm-up helps to prepare your body for the physical activity you are about to do. It also helps in a lot of ways. Read on to find out why you should not skip warm-up exercises before running and some of the best warm-up exercises you can.

Benefits of pre-run warm-up

Warming up may appear to be a little and insignificant aspect of your workout, it is actually quite important for a safe and successful running experience, says fitness expert Aminder Singh of Team Aminder fame.

Woman running
Warm-up before running is important. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

1. Warm-up prevents injuries

When you warm-up properly, the likelihood of muscle sprains and injuries is considerably decreased. Cold muscles are more vulnerable to injury without a warm-up, especially when they are subjected to quick motions. On the other hand, proper preparation helps to enhance blood flow to the muscles, making them more flexible and less prone to injury.

2. Warm-up increases flexibility and mobility

The mobility of important joints such as the ankles and hips is improved by warming-up. A more smooth and effective stride during your run depends on this expanded range of motion. Joint pain and increased muscle strain brought on by stiff or tight joints can raise your risk of injury.

3. Warm-up improves muscle function

Warming-up causes your blood flow to your muscles to increase. As a result, they become warmer and more elastic and responsive. Warmer muscles contract and relax more effectively, enhancing your run’s range of motion and power, the expert tells Health Shots.

4. Warm-up enhances muscle activation

Since cold muscles are less sensitive, running efficiency may be impacted. Your central nervous system is stimulated by an appropriate warm-up, preparing your muscles for movement. This enhances muscle coordination and activation when you are running.

5. Warm-up enhances cardiovascular system activation

Your cardiovascular system is warmed up during a warm-up to get it ready for the rigors of running. By doing so, you can lower your risk of developing heart problems and make sure that your body can effectively supply oxygen to your working muscles.

Best warm-up exercises for runners

Any runner, be it a beginner, intermediate or a professional, should include warm-up activities since they assist the body get ready for the physical demands of running. Try these exercise, suggests Aminder Singh.

1. Ankle mobility exercises

• Sit down with your legs kept out in front of you.
• Your ankle should be rotated clockwise as well as counterclockwise while you lift one leg off the ground.
• Swing your foot slowly from left to right and up to down to perform ankle swings.
• To increase ankle mobility, repeat these movements for about 30 seconds per ankle.

For stable foot placement and running form, you need sufficient ankle mobility, says the expert.

2. Hamstring stretch

• As you stand, place your feet hip-width apart.
• With your left foot remaining straight, advance with your right foot.
• Keep your back straight while progressively bending at the hips to reach for your right foot.
• Hold each leg’s stretch for 20 to 30 seconds while feeling your hamstrings gently pulled.

By lengthening and warming up the hamstring muscles, this exercise promotes flexibility and guards against strains.

Woman running
You can do side body stretch before running. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Side body stretch

• Place your feet shoulder-width apart when you stand.
• Straighten your left arm as you raise it above your head.
• Reaching 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 during running and give your torso a good stretch, are activated and prepared by the side body stretch.

4. Arm circles with forward bend

• Start with placing your feet hip-width apart as you stand.
• Your arms should be out to the sides.
• Create little circles with your arms and progressively enlarge them.
• About 15 to 20 seconds, continue to make the circles while bending at the hips.

Arm circles promote flexibility and prevent stiffness by warming up your shoulder joints, upper body and lower back.

5. Neck rotation

• While you stand, keep your feet hip-width apart.
• Get your right ear near your right shoulder as you incline your head to the right.
• Tilt your head on the left side after turning your head back and getting your chin to your chest.
• Repeat the action, rotating the neck in a circle for 15 to 20 seconds in each direction.

Your neck muscles help you to keep a balanced posture while running, so this workout makes sure they are warmed up enough.

How long to warm up before running?

Slowing down and being deliberate while concentrating on each muscle group throughout these exercises is the key to an efficient warm-up. Make sure your body is properly warmed up for your run by spending about 5 to 10 minutes on your warm-up regimen.

Any runner’s routine must include warm-up activities, and the time allotted to them can have a big impact on performance. The sort of race or run that a runner is preparing for, their degree of personal fitness, and their particular goals all have 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 it is for longer runs. It is preferable to generate the explosive power and speed needed for sprinting with a well-designed warm-up. A sprinter who overdoes their warm-up may deplete important energy reserves that ought to be saved for the actual race. This is especially true considering that a 100-meter sprint only requires a few seconds of all-out exertion.

A 5 to 10-minute warm-up is usually adequate for a 100-meter sprint. This period of time enables the required physiological adaptations without depleting energy reserves.

It is important to stress that the main purpose of a sprinter’s warm-up is to feel prepared and primed for the race, not to cause weariness. It is true that overdoing the warm-up, such as by engaging in excessive cardio or static stretching, can result in a loss of energy and poor performance. But remember that everyone has different preferences and needs. Depending on their prior experience and physical response, certain sprinters may need a significantly longer or shorter warm-up period.

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