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Are You Ready to Run? Standard #5

Editors Note:This is the fifth post of our series designed to help you run for a lifetime. If you're tired of dealing with injuries every time you start running and wonder if you're even capable of running pain-free, this series is for you. You can find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 , and Part 4 in the hyperlinked text.

Standard #5: Warming-Up and Cooling-Down Now that you've got your thumb on the pulse of your hip, knee, ankle, and foot mobility and motor control, it's time to pull back and look at some of the physical practices you may or may not be doing that directly influence the quality and quantity of your running. Stay with me, and try this little thought exercise for the next minute. Think for a minute-especially you folks reading this indoors protected from temperatures that drive the birds to fly south but only inspire you to buy more clothes-about how you treat your car on a cold morning. As you get in the car, you strap yourself into your seat with the seat belt, put the key in the ignition and start the engine, look around to make sure no one or nothing is in your way, then you gently steer your car out of its parking spot and onto the road. Unless it's an emergency, it's unlikely you'll be testing the acceleration or top-speed capacities of your car in the first 5 to 10 minutes of your drive. Which is a good thing because we know your car lasts longer when you don't push it to its limits right after you start it up. Now let's apply the same approach you take in caring for your car to your warm-up before you go on your run. A solid 5-10 minute warm-up is all you need to warm up your muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and nervous system to ensure you perform your best during your run. How to Do It-The Warm-Up This is simple, straight-forward stuff. I want your warm-up to get you hot and sweaty and tuned in to move well during your run. If your warm-up isn't getting you to that point before your run right now, you're leaving a boatload of performance on the doorstep.

Here's a general suggestion for warm-up:

  1. Start with slow, controlled movements in place. Air Squats, forward and backward arm circles, stationary lunges, push-ups. Aim for 15-20 reps of each, really grease those joints, muscles, and movement patterns.

  2. Add some walking warm-ups. Some of our favorites for runners are Heel Walks, Toe Walks, Knee Hugs, Leg Cradles, Inverted Hamstrings, and Monster Walks. Aim for 10 reps (per-leg) of each.

  3. Prime the pump. Jump rope for 2-5 minutes is an excellent way to warm-up the muscle and joints of your lower legs and feet. You can also simply knock out enough Athletic Burpees to get you breathing hard or go through 2-4 minutes of our Tabata Squat protocol to flush your legs with blood flow.

  4. Once you're warm, get after it.

How to Do It-The Cool-Down

As you get to the end of your run, make sure you leave enough time for at least a 5-minute cool-down. Don't go from full speed to stop. Your thought in mind at the end of your run should be "it's time to start the recovery process."

The cool-down should be just like the warm-up, simple and straight-forward:

  1. An easy 10-15 minutes on the rowing machine or on a bike, or walking around your neighborhood.

  2. Walking, barefoot if possible, for 5 minutes

  3. Box breathing for 2 minutes.

  4. Some mobility exercises or basic body weight exercises like air squats, lunges, or arm swings.

If you think you don't have time for warm-up or cooling-down, you're missing out.

Performance isn't just about how hard you work. It is predicated on properly preparing your body to perform, then tending to it afterward to ensure you can come back and do it again and again without breaking yourself. If you have to cut 5 minutes off of each end of your run to get in a brief warm-up and cool-down you'll have done yourself more good in those 10 minutes of body maintenance practice than you would have in those extra 10 minutes of running.

When trying to decide how long to dedicate to this practice, remember that the length of your warm-up and cool-down should match the intensity of your effort. If you're going to run or train hard, you need longer than 5 minutes to warm-up and cool-down. 20 minutes on both ends would be a better goal to shoot for. If you're simply going out for LSD (Long Slow Distance) on a fairly flat surface, you can warm-up and cool-down with 5-minute efforts on either side. Match your warm-ups and cool-downs to your level of effort and reap the rewards of your performance gains!

Closing Thoughts

You might not notice a difference the first time or two you go through this warm-up and cool-down routine. But what should become apparent within a week or two is that you are recovering better from your runs: less soreness, better sleep, and no performance drop-offs that are typical when your training mileage stacks up.

If you haven't been able to get back to running, we're here to help! You can contact via phone or email (see contact info below). We'd be happy to offer 15 minutes of our time to see if you're a good fit for our performance therapy approach!

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