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Warming Up and Cooling Down

warm up and cool downIt is important to do a warm up before we start exercise. It prepares the body for exercise in a few ways, firstly and most well known it increases blood supply to the muscles, it also increases synovial fluid to the joints (which acts like oil to lubricate the joints). Mentally it also stimulates us to focus on the exercise ahead.

Everybody has a slightly different warm up routine and there is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you're feeling loose, limber and warm before you start the quality content of your session or run.

An example warm up - Loosen up

Gaining mobility in the joints, hips, shoulders and knees. For example leg and arm swings. I personally don't like to static stretch before running and stick to the dynamic exercises.

Increase heart rate

Then walks of increasing pace till you reach a slow run for 5-10 minutes to get the blood pumping.

Drills

If you are doing some fast running or feel you would benefit the warm up can be extended to include some drills, this activates the correct muscles and can also be a good time to strengthen some weak spots that have been pinpointed usually by a physiotherapist.

A good example is the High knees drill, this can be done both walking and skipping. The walking version helps build stability and activation of the correct muscles.
Lift your knees no higher than 90 degrees keeping feet flat not pointed as you lift the foot. Make sure you are stood with your shoulders back (not hunched) and you are using your buttock and core muscles to stabilise, without bracing( not holing everything tense). Also make sure the arms move correctly not passing too far across the mid line of the body. Skipping high knees should focus on the same technique and muscle activation but allows you to practice at speed.

Strides

These are the last test to check everything is lose and ready to go. 2 or 3 runs over roughly 80m with increasing pace, placing emphasis on running tall and striding out. (This is how I am told Bolt does it... no fancy drills just runs of progressive speed).

Cool Down

This is especially important if you have done a high intensity workout such as a hill session. It helps the body recover. Slow the pace of running gradually to a walk over 5-10 minutes. Followed by stretching, the stretches will depend on the individual and what gets the most stress while running, here are a few examples of common areas that get tight for runners.

Calf stretch

warm up cool downIt's important to stretch both parts of your calf, the upper and the lower. Put feet hip width apart and stand about a metre away from the wall (dependent on flexibility) with feet facing forward. Slowly lean to put your hands on the wall keeping heels on the floor and bottom and chest in line. To stretch both parts of the calf this should be done with bent and straight legs.

Quad stretch

can be done laying on the front or stood up, bring one leg toward the bottom making sure that you do not point the hips downward to make it easier, try keep them facing forward to increase the stretch.

Hamstring stretch

Touch your toes with straight legs, focusing on not curling the back. (Note if you find the stretch gives a sharp pain in the back of the knee it could be neural tightness not the hamstrings, try pressing on the area that is tight while bending and straightening the leg to relieve the tension).

Groin stretch

Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and genitally push the knees towards the floor.

Never stretch unless you are warmed up, and make sure the stretch is held for 8-14 seconds. Try not to make it too painful or bounce as this can cause injury.

Written by Laura from our Leeds, Headingley shop.