Warming up before any exercise is important, no matter what season we are in. But with marathon season approaching and many people training for longer runs in the colder weather, warming up perhaps takes on an added significance.
The aim of a warm-up is to help warm the muscle, increase circulation and activate muscle firing patterns. Dynamic stretching is a good way to achieve this.
As a general rule of thumb, I advise my patients who run at any level of participation to stick to dynamic stretching for their warm-up and static stretching for their cool down.
Static stretching elongates a muscle to its maximum length. For a cool down routine this is great as running repeatedly exerts a muscle through a limited scope of its full range. If we weren’t to stretch to the extremities of its length, then a shortening would develop.
Previous evidence has shown that static stretching can relax the muscles we want to activate, while decreasing their ability to store energy – the opposite effect of what we want to achieve pre-run.
These are my top five dynamic warm-up stretches.
1. Walking lunge
Keeping your back straight and tall, slowly lunge forwards, alternating legs as you take each step for 10 steps in total.
2. Side to side lunges
Keeping your back straight and tall, slowly lunge to one side, leading with this leg for five steps before returning with side lunges in the opposite direction.
3. Dynamic hamstring stretches
Holding on for balance if necessary, swing your leg out in front of you, keeping it completely straight. Swing back and forth, being careful not to over-strain and feeling a stretch in the back of your leg. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
4. Slow-motion running
Mimic the running action at 25 per cent speed for one minute, really exaggerating the hip/knee lifts and arm swings.
5. Stride outs with trunk rotation
As you take a stride with your right leg, perform a slow punching action across your body with your left hand. Allow your trunk to rotate with the movement as you punch the hand over the opposite shoulder. Walk for one minute, alternating rotations with each stride.
Dave Peachey is a chartered physiotherapist working for Sussex MSK Partnership East in the UK.