Warming up and cooling down in running

Warming up and cooling down in running

Neil Black advises what you should do, both before and after a run to get the best out of your training sessions.

By warming up you will gradually prepare your heart, lungs, muscles and tendons for the exertion of each training run or competition. Poor performance, or even injury, could be the cost of taking short cuts.


Poor performance, or even injury, could be the cost of taking short cuts

Having gently and progressively warmed-up muscles, ease them out to their full-functional length with stretching which will not only allow you to move with greater freedom but will also reduce the chances of a frustrating injury.

Then, having put in the performance of your life, straining every sinew to its extreme, don't just stop suddenly. A warm down will gently ease the heart and lungs back down to their resting level, at the same time flushing out the waste products from the effort. Next ease out any tensions in those fatigued muscles by stretching once again before finally getting into a well deserved shower having truly finished training for the day. Well done, you will be ready and able to train again tomorrow!
 
Warming up
Warm up thoroughly before a hard run
Fell racingThe benefits of warming up include:
  • reducing the risk of injury
  • preparing the body for physical exertion
  • preparing the heart for the physical activity
  • rehearsal of the movements and skills needed
  • mental preparation for the event
A warm-up normally consists of four stages:
  1. Gentle loosening exercises
  2. Jogging
  3. Static stretching
  4. Event specific exercise, e.g. sprinting or jumping over hurdles
Gentle loosening exercises

A good loosening exercise would be:
  • Start off with walking
  • Progress into skipping with various types of arm swinging (e.g. both arms forward, both back, one forward, one back etc.)
  • Follow with jogging on the spot
  • Then go straight into the jogging part of the warm up
The main aim is for your body to feel loose and relaxed by the time you start jogging.

Jogging

For runners, the jogging component of the warm-up should last from 10-20 minutes depending on the person, the session/event and the climate. For example you should jog for longer if you are doing a hard training session or short race in cold weather, but only for a few minutes if about to do a long 'easy' run during summer.

Stretching
Some runners swear by stretching, some tell tales of getting injured doing it and some just can't be bothered

Some runners swear by it, some tell tales of how they got injured doing it and some just can't be bothered. However, as well as making sure you are easing out any existing tensions which could increase the risk of injury, stretching also has a bio-physiological effect on the tissue, improving its efficiency which can be of benefit to performance.

How to stretch

Ideally following the jogging part of a warm-up, static stretching should be performed of all major muscle groups of the body. If this is not possible stretch the muscles most used in running or at the very least those that feel in need of it the most.

As a guide perform three stretches per muscle group, holding for at least 15 - 20 seconds with a feeling of obvious but comfortable tension. If the tension increases whilst holding the stretch then ease off. Occasionally some people like to hold the stretch for longer, sometimes up to 60 seconds.
 
Stretching after running
Stretching is importantEvent specific exercise

If your training or competition is going to involve ballistic activities such as jumping or fast acceleration and deceleration then you may need to do some form of more ballistic type stretching and activity to 'bridge the gap' as appropriate.

Warm down

End with easy running to encourage the heart and lungs to gradually return to their normal rates. At the same time this will flush out the waste products which have built up in the muscles - 10 minutes should be enough for most people.

Follow the easy running with gentle stretching of any muscles that are feeling particularly tight or tired so that normal resting length is restored, leaving them ready to recover over night for the next day's run. Hold the stretch position for between 15-20 seconds and repeat 2 or 3 times per area.

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