So you know why running is so amazing, and you’re all ready to get started, but what I really need you to know now is the importance of warming up and cooling down before and after your run! In order to perform your best and stay injury free, you need to be consistent with your limbering up and cooling off, so the following post will give you some tips and advice on how to make sure your body is well prepared!
Before you run
Make sure you’re well hydrated and preferably fed (though some people like to run fasted first thing in the morning, it’s up to you) before you even start the warm up. Don’t guzzle a bottle of water as you head out the door, but just make sure you’ve been keeping your hydration levels up throughout the day, and have had a meal 1-2 hours before or a small snack 30 minutes before.
Then it’s time to warm up! Personally I like to start with some dynamic moves which help get our joints and muscles mobile. These include leg swings, squats, knee raises (where you swing your knee up in front of you), lateral knee raises including opening and closing “the gate” (bring your knee out to the side then swing it to the front and vice versa), rolling the ankles, toe taps (bending at the hips and reaching the left foot with the right hand and vice versa) and standing abdominal twists.
After you’ve done a variety of dynamic moves, you should preferably jog for a mile or two before getting into your workout, especially if it’s an intense session. If you’re new to running, take a brisk walk for 5-10 minutes at least. I know it’s easy to skip this bit, but it’s really important to ease yourself into it to help prevent injury! I’ve learned this the hard way and now always at least try to take it steady at the beginning of any run.
Congratulations, you’ve finished your workout, improved your running and now it’s time to hit the shower before faceplanting your post-workout meal, right?! Wrong. It’s time to cool off pal. Take a few minutes to jog or walk around, getting your breathing back to a normal rate. Now’s when you can do some static stretches to soothe those hardworking muscles. I know, I know – it’s boring and you’ve got some serious runger happening right now, but trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Here are a few stretches that I always do after a run, even when I’m pushed for time. For each, spend 20-30 seconds per leg. Keep your feet parallel and facing forward (note that I’m not doing this in some of the photos, naughty April!!). Never ever stretch to the point of pain. Focus on the muscle you are stretching and take your time as you move into the position.
Stand on one leg, bending the other and holding onto your foot behind you. Pull your foot towards your body to a point where you can feel the stretch. To get more of a stretch, push through your hips.
Step one foot forward, keeping the front leg straight and the rear leg bent. Keeping your chest up, lean forwards slowly to get the stretch. Let your hands rest above your bent knee but don’t put any pressure on it. To deepen the stretch, raise the toes of your front foot.
Take a big step forward with the front leg bent and rear leg straight. You may need to step your back foot out further until you feel the stretch. To get a stretch to the lower part of your calf, step the rear leg in a foot or so and then bend that leg until you feel the new stretch.
Standing glute stretch
From standing, raise one leg and place your ankle above the opposite knee. Push your hips back as you bend the leg you’re standing on slightly, and lean forward a little keeping your chest up until you feel the stretch.
They are my four essential stretches. There are variations of each of them but these are some key basics to get you started. You could also stretch off your hip flexers and the insides of your legs, as well as your upper body if you have time.
That’s right, the stretching doesn’t stop there! Before you go to bed at night, try and get in the habit of taking a little time to stretch off once again, and foam roll if you have the time. This is one of my goals for this year as I regularly fail to complete this one!
Make sure you refuel and hydrate properly after you run too, as this also helps ward off injury, repair your muscles and boost your performance for next time!
The points I make in this post are all my own opinion and personal preference. If you feel any pain whilst running, stop immediately, cool down and seek medical help if needed.