One of the positive things I’m loving about the lockdown during the Covid-19 outbreak is the number of people I have seen outside running. It seems that many people are using their time outside to run which is lovely to see.  Many of these people will be experienced runners, tapping into their daily runners high as their endorphins flow after another good run (I’m with them on this….whatever the day throws at me, if I go out for a run I immediately feel better) and some of these people will be new to running and trying something they have always wanted to do but maybe never had the time or never had the confidence.

Whatever your reason for running, it is really important that you warm up and cool down before you go out for a run.  During this blog we’re going to do just that, look at warm up and cool down exercises for running!

The Benefits of Warming Up

In our role as personal trainers, we hear about so many people who just pop their trainers on and go out for a run. Without warming up and cooling down then you’re running the risk of short and long term injuries and not optimising your actual training sessions. Performing a thorough warm up will actually enable you to run more efficiently and reap more benefits from your training session.

This blog looks at warm up and cool down exercises for running which will get you primed for your session ahead and also help you recover more efficiently for your next training session.

Warm Up Exercise For Runners 

The purpose of a warm up is to start to increase the amount of blood, oxugen and nutrients to the muscles you are going to use during your training session. We’re looking to warm up the muscles through movement rather than static stretches (save these for after your run) and gradually increase the heart rate to deliver the extra oxygen to the muscles. Imagine you set off driving in a car and try to go from 1st gear to 5th gear….you car will groan through never hitting the optimum speed it should do in 5th gear….your body is a little bit like this, your warm up should shift you through your gears until you’re in the optimal gear for your workout.

Here’s a simple warm up for running:

  • Brisk walk for 2-3 minutes, then stop and complete 10 x standing leg swings on each side, 20 x reverse lunges, 20 x forwards lunges
  • Light jog x5 minutes, after you have jogged for 2-3 minute incorporate 20seconds knees high,  20 seconds heels to bum, 20 seconds fast pace – repeat this sequence x3.
  • Throughout this your heart rate will have gradually increased and you’ll have started firing up the muscles you’ll use during your run.
  • Spend the next 5 minutes gradually building up to your actual running pace…..then you’re off!

Cool Down Exercises for Runners 

It’s importance to recognise the importance of cooling down. Cooling down will help to release any tightness caused through the repetitive movement of running, which could lead to injuries if you don’t cool down well. During your cool down you should also look to gradually lower your heart rate, so you not going from ‘everything to nothing’ in a matter of seconds (remember the car….you would gradually go down the gears in your car, do this at the end of your workout too). This could simply be adding 3-5 minutes of jogging into walking at the end of your run. Foam rollers are great for using post-run but that’s a blog for another time.

When you finish your run it’s time for static stretches. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, don’t bounce but just feel a light stretch in the muscle. If you have any pain, release the stretch and stop.

Here are some great cool down stretches for runners. Remember to repeat on both sides!

Quad Stretch

Stand up or lie on your side, bend the knee and gently pull the heel towards the bum until you feel a stretch in the quad, down the front of the thigh. Make sure your knees and thighs stay together, give your glutes a squeeze and push gently through the hips for a deeper stretch.

Lying Hamstring Stretch

Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet on the floor shoulder width apart. Lift one leg in the air as straight as you can, but without the knee being locked. Pop your hands behind the thigh, or if you have a resistance band, towel or even a dressing gown belt, loop this around the back of the thigh. Without bending at the knee, gently pull the leg towards you until you feel a light stretch down the back of the thigh. Try pushing the leg against your hand or band/towel to get a deeper stretch

Lying Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis which is located behind the gluteus maximums can get very tight in runners so this is a stretch which I recommend to all of my running clients and friends. Lie on your back, lift your right leg from the floor so your knee and hip joints are at right angles. Then lift your left foot off the floor and place this on the right thigh, just below the knee cap. Thread your left arm through the little hold you have made and the right arm around the outside of the right leg so that both hands rest on the back of the right thigh and then pull in towards you until you feel a stretch. (You might resemble a human prestle as you do this stretch!)

Kneeling Calf Stretch

The calf muscles really do take a battering when you run, especially if you’re new to running or doing speed work, so it’s essential that we stretch them at the end of each session. Start on all fours so that the shoulders are over the hands, hips over the knees. Push one leg out behind so that the toes are pressed into the floor, then push the heel down towards the floor until you feel a stretch in the calf.

Lower Back Stretch

Running isn’t just about the lower body, the torso works hard during a run to maintain your posture. This stretch is similar to child’s pose and I really like finishing off all my training sessions with this stretch. Start on all fours as above, then lower your butt towards your heels, the chest should come down towards the knees and your arms should be stretched out in front. Ahhhhhh…..

If you have any questions about running, or indeed anything to do with health and fitness feel free to drop us a line at transform@supersonicfitness.co.uk we’d love to hear from you!

Image taken from Pixabay