5 warm-up exercises for runners

Running is often a common choice for people who want to lose weight, stay in shape or just be healthy. Some prefer to start the day with it, others like to do it after they get home from work. After tying up the laces, runners tend to just hit the road. That’s a big no, because it’s necessary to spend some time on warm-up exercises before running. A warm-up before running helps prepare your body for the physical activity you’ll be doing. It also helps in many ways. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t skip warm-up exercises before running and the best warm-up exercises to do.

Benefits of warming up before running

Warming up may seem like a small and insignificant aspect of your training, but it’s actually very important for a safe and successful running experience, says fitness expert Aminder Singh of Team Aminder.

A warm-up before running is important. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

1. Warming up prevents injuries

When you warm up properly, the risk of muscle sprains and injuries is significantly reduced. Without warm-up, cold muscles are more vulnerable to injury, especially if they are exposed to fast movements. On the other hand, proper preparation helps improve blood flow to the muscles, making them more flexible and less prone to injuries.

2. Warming up increases flexibility and mobility

A warm-up improves the mobility of important joints such as the ankles and hips. A smoother and more effective stride while running depends on this extended range of motion. Joint pain and increased muscle tension caused by stiff or tight joints can increase the risk of injury.

3. Warming up improves muscle function

Warming up increases blood flow to your muscles. As a result, they become warmer, more elastic and responsive. Warmer muscles contract and relax more effectively, increasing the range of motion and power of your run, the expert tells Health Shots.

4. Warming up improves muscle activation

Because cold muscles are less sensitive, running efficiency can be affected. Your central nervous system is stimulated by an appropriate warm-up, which prepares your muscles for movement. This improves muscle coordination and activation while running.

5. Warming up improves activation of the cardiovascular system

A warm-up warms up your cardiovascular system so it is ready for the rigors of running. By doing this, you can lower your risk of developing heart problems and ensure that your body can effectively supply oxygen to your working muscles.

Best warm-up exercises for runners

Every runner, whether beginner, intermediate or professional, should undertake warm-up activities as they help prepare the body for the physical demands of running. Try this exercise, suggests Aminder Singh.

1. Ankle mobility exercises

• Sit with your legs extended in front of you.
• Your ankle should be rotated both clockwise and counterclockwise as you lift one leg off the ground.
• Slowly swing your foot from side to side and up to down to perform ankle swings.
• To increase ankle mobility, repeat these movements for approximately 30 seconds per ankle.

For stable foot placement and running form, you need sufficient ankle mobility, the expert says.

2. Hamstring stretches

• While standing, place your feet hip-width apart.
• While your left foot remains straight, continue with your right foot.
• Keep your back straight as you gradually bend your hips to reach for your right foot.
• Hold the stretch on each leg for 20 to 30 seconds while feeling a gentle pull on your hamstrings.

By lengthening and warming up the hamstring muscles, this exercise promotes flexibility and protects them from strain.

Woman running
You can stretch the side of the body before running. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Stretch on the side of the body

• Place your feet shoulder-width apart when standing.
• Straighten your left arm as you raise it above your head.
• Reach with your left hand and slowly bend your body to the right.
• Switch sides after 20 to 30 seconds.

The oblique muscles, which are crucial for stability while running and give your core a good stretch, are activated and prepared by the side body stretch.

4. Arm circles with forward bend

• Start by placing your feet hip-width apart while standing.
• Your arms should be extended to the sides.
• Make small circles with your arms and gradually enlarge them.
• Continue making the circles for about 15 to 20 seconds while flexing the hips.

Arm circles promote flexibility and prevent stiffness by warming up your shoulder joints, upper body and lower back.

5. Neck rotation

• While standing, keep your feet hip-width apart.
• Place your right ear near your right shoulder as you tilt your head to the right.
• Tilt your head to the left side after turning your head back and bringing your chin to your chest.
• Repeat the action, rotating the neck in a circle in each direction for 15 to 20 seconds.

Your neck muscles help you maintain a balanced posture while running, so this workout ensures that they are sufficiently warmed up.

How long should you warm up before running?

Slowing down and being deliberate as you focus on each muscle group during these exercises is the key to an efficient warm-up. Make sure your body is properly warmed up before your run by spending about 5 to 10 minutes on your warm-up regimen.

Every runner’s routine should include warm-up activities, and the time spent on them can have a big impact on performance. The type of race or run a runner is preparing for, their level of personal fitness and their specific goals all play a role in the amount of time they should spend on warm-up exercises.

The warm-up time for a 100-meter sprint is indeed shorter than for longer runs. It is preferable to generate the explosive force and speed necessary for sprinting with a well-designed warm-up. A sprinter who overdoes his warm-up can deplete important energy reserves that should be saved for the actual race. This is especially true when you consider that a 100-meter sprint requires only a few seconds of total effort.

A 5 to 10 minute warm-up is usually sufficient for a 100-meter sprint. This time period allows for the required physiological adjustments without depleting energy reserves.

It is important to emphasize that the main purpose of a sprinter’s warm-up is to feel prepared and ready for the race, and not to induce fatigue. It’s true that overdoing the warm-up, for example by doing excessive cardio or static stretching exercises, can lead to energy loss and poor performance. But remember that everyone has different preferences and needs. Depending on their previous experience and physical response, certain sprinters may require a significantly longer or shorter warm-up period.

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