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Getting into running can be a great way to improve your health and well-being. It is one of the most impactful forms of cardio exercise, as it increases strength and endurance while burning calories. It’s also an excellent way to clear your head and relieve stress. However, before jumping into a full-fledged run, it’s important to properly warm up your body.
What is a Good Warm-Up for Running?
Before going for a run, warming up your body is a necessary step that shouldn’t be skipped. A warm-up routine can help raise your heart rate, increasing blood flow to the muscles. The temperature of your body will also rise a bit. This means that more oxygen is able to get to your muscles, allowing them to perform better as you work harder.
Performing a warm-up before running is also a great form of mental preparation as it allows you to shift your focus to the activities ahead of you. Whether it’s a short run or a race, giving yourself time to get your head in the game can help you perform better.
When it comes to warm-ups, the best exercises to perform are dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching exercises are movements that involve a variety of actions that activate various muscle groups and mobilize joints.
What is a Dynamic Warm-Up for Running?
There are two kinds of stretches: dynamic stretches and static stretches. Static stretching involves holding your position for an extended period, allowing you to feel a stretch. In static stretches, you usually hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, but some individuals hold their stretches for longer. Static stretch exercises are usually done as part of a cool-down routine after a workout.
In contrast to static stretching, dynamic exercises are an excellent way to get the blood flowing and muscles ready for activity. These exercises involve constant movement patterns that extend the range of motion around a joint, stretching the muscles. Dynamic stretches include exercises such as walking lunges or high knees. Performing a dynamic stretching routine before going on a run can help prepare your body for the intense activity ahead as these exercises simulate running.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
Doing a dynamic stretch routine before running brings a ton of benefits as it helps not only your body but your mind as well. First of all, dynamic stretching can help increase your range of motion. This means that the more range of motion you have, the more flexible you are. This is especially important as we get older, and our muscle elasticity decreases.
Dynamic stretches increase the circulation to your muscles and activate sensory receptors in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These receptors then send a signal to the spinal cord, then the parasympathetic nervous system responds by sending the signal back to the tissues to relax. Once your muscles and tendons relax, your tissues lengthen, allowing more motion around your joint. This reduces tight muscles and sore joints.
When you perform dynamic stretches, you also reduce your risk of injury. Because it helps improve range and increases circulation, it prepares your muscles and connective tissues for the hard work ahead. This reduces the risk of injury from sudden movements and high forces.
Dynamic stretching also elevates your heart rate, preparing you for your run. It’s important to raise your heart rate and increase your body temperature during a warm-up rather than suddenly jumping into an intense exercise.
Dynamic stretching can also help increase performance. According to research, doing dynamic stretches before a workout is a good way to work on one’s agility, balance, and coordination.
What are 5 Great Dynamic Stretches for Runners?
Many runners have confessed that they tend to skip the warm-up period. However, one should keep in mind that warming up is a critical component of workouts. Here are five great dynamic stretching exercises that you can do before a run.
Stand up tall with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart. Slowly trace big circles with your hips as if you have an invisible hula hoop. Complete 5 in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction.
With both feet facing forwards, take a wide step to the right, bending your right knee. Send your hips backward and shift your weight over your right foot, keeping your left leg straight. Keep your chest lifted, your back straight, and your core engaged. Return to standing. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.
Stand upright with your hands on your hips, chest up, and core engaged. Take a step forward and bend both knees to 90 degrees. Drop your body down into a deep lunge. Your back knee should nearly touch the ground and your front shin should be perpendicular to the floor. Alternate legs as you lunge and walk forward, completing 15 walking lunges per side.
Benefits of leg swings include improving the hip joints and hamstrings as well as preparing your ankles and feet for the activity ahead. Stand upright holding a wall, chair, or pole to one side of your body.
Lift the leg on the opposite side of the body and swing it up in front of you and back behind you, back and forth, in a fluid motion. Keep your core engaged. Perform 15 leg swings and then switch sides.
Start by standing with your feet together. Extend your right leg straight out in front of you and bring your left hand to tap your right toes. Lower your leg and step forward. Repeat the motion using your left leg and right arm. Continue for 30 seconds.
Best Dynamic Stretches to Include in Your Warm-Up
Compared to static stretching, dynamic stretches are much better to do as a warm-up to any rigorous exercise. Here are some of the best dynamic exercises to get your heart racing and your blood pumping.
This helps warm up your upper body. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift your arms out to shoulder height, palms down. Make small circles. After 30 seconds, switch direction. Continue for another 30 seconds.
Side Step + Shuffle
This move warms up the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and hip flexors. To do the proper form of this exercise, begin by standing as tall as you can with your legs straight and arms hanging by your sides.
Next, step to the side by performing quick side shuffles for 10 to 15 meters right. On the last shuffle, land on your right foot and pause for a moment. Shuffle back to the starting position.
This stretch helps improve shoulder mobility and posture. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Next, lift your left arm above your head, bend your elbow, and reach down your back. Simultaneously, bring your right arm behind your back, your hand facing upward. Touch your fingers from your right and left hands together. Alternate arm positions.
This is a great stretch as it loosens up tight hips and activates the core because you have to balance on one leg. Start by standing upright and lift one knee up towards your chest as if you’re about to step over a hurdle. Try to lift your knee as high as you can.
When your knee is at chest level, turn your hip out so that the inside of your leg is facing the imaginary hurdle. Draw it out to the side as you bring it back down, opening up your hips. Do 15 reps per side.
Engage your core as you stand and ensure your back is flat, then lean forward slightly so that your chest is over your toes. Start jogging forward by bringing your heels to touch your hamstrings.
Make sure to keep your elbows close to your sides and ankles flexed the entire time. Keep alternating kicking your butt with your left and right leg for at least one minute.
Modified Single-Leg Deadlift
Stand on your left leg with your left knee slightly bent and tuck your right toes slightly behind your left leg for balance. Slowly send your hips back and hinge forward until your torso is parallel to the floor.
Keep your right toes on the ground to stabilize yourself. Return to the start position. Repeat for 30 seconds then switch legs.
Quad + Piriformis Walk
Begin in a standing position with your left foot drawn behind you, pulling toward your butt for a quad stretch. Release and step forward, then switch legs. After 30 seconds, pull your right knee up to your chest and cradle your left at your ankle. Release and step forward, then switch to the other side. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Dynamic warm-up exercises are a great way to get your body ready for exercise and reduce the risk of injury. Starting off with light jogging followed by dynamic stretching and mobility exercises will help you get into the rhythm of running while preparing your muscles and joints for activity.
With consistent practice, these exercises can also improve your performance and make running more enjoyable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a 5-minute run a good warm-up?
Five minutes of easy jogging or brisk walking followed by a handful of dynamic exercises is a great warm-up routine.