Just as if you would prepare your car for a long trip…you need to prepare your body for before running. A pre-run warm up should target all the major muscle groups you will be using . Therefore you’ll want to make sure you focus on the muscle groups throughout the legs, including glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, and calf muscles.
Now you may be thinking…who’s got time to stretch all those muscles? Well the fact is it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Additionally if you end up getting injured on a run, the time you’ll have to take off to allow for healing and recovery will no doubt be much greater!
You may also be saying to yourself…I heard that stretching prior to running will kill my efficiency and not allow me to have as good of a run. This is a common misconception. In fact, warming up prior to a run will prime the muscles and improve circulation, allowing you to move and run more efficiently and effectively.
So how does one go about warming the body up before a run? Well the best way is through light pain free stretching, performing light functional movements, and/or using a foam roller or a soft tissue mobilization tool.
As stated stretching before a run should be light and pain free, and the hold time for a stretch should be no longer than 5 – 10 seconds. If you hold a stretch beyond 10 seconds you will start to physiologically lengthen that muscle, and a lengthened muscle will be less efficient.
Gentle functional movements (a.k.a. dynamic stretches) are great for prepping the body, while also allowing you to target multiple muscle groups in a short period of time. Some functional movements you can perform include walking lunges, leg swings, carioca walk or jog, swinging hip circles, or a lighter pain free activity (i.e. walking or light riding on a stationary bike).
Another great way to prep those primary muscles for running is through use of a foam roller, running stick, or any other tool that can be used for soft tissue mobilization. The key points to keep in mind when using a foam roller prior to running are to keep the movements slow and gentle. Avoid putting a lot of pressure onto the roller and avoid rolling over any prominent bony areas (i.e. that bone that sticks out on the side of your hip); bones are very sensitive so rolling over those bony areas won’t feel good or provide any benefit . A good rule of thumb with any of these techniques is if it hurts DON’T force it or push through it!
So in conclusion don’t be the person that after sitting at work all day, drives home or to their local run club, and just jumps into running without warming up and prepping their body. If so, the only place you may be running to is your local physical therapist!
(Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is presented for the purpose of education only. Nothing contained in this report is intended to be instructional for medical diagnosis or treatment.
The information should not be considered complete, nor should it be relied on to suggest a course of treatment for a particular individual. It should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Information obtained in this report is not exhaustive and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions or their treatment. Should you have any health care related questions, please call or see your physician or other qualified healthcare provider promptly. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this report. )
By Dr. Ken Corcoran, PT, DPT, SCS, CEAS