Stretching, Warming Up and Down
Stretching is really important no matter how experienced a runner you are. Many runners believe that they benefit from stretching exercises to improve flexibility/ mobility and strength and there are those that are convinced that yoga and core strength exercises are essential to remaining injury free.
Ideally you should stretch prior to your run but after a gentle warm up as well as after your run when your muscles are already warmed up. It is advisable not to stretch cold muscles as this increases the risk of muscle pulls and strains.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Warm up at half pace or a walk and build up to your natural pace over at least 8 minutes.
The longer the run or the colder it is, the longer and more gradual you should warm up.
Warm up, particularly if warming up for a race should include strides, knee lifts and heel kicks to really get the body warm and increase the heart rate.
Cool down by easing down from your natural pace to half pace and then gradually decreasing to a walk, again this should take at least 8 minutes.
Find an upright pole, fence or wall that will support you for leaning into on some of the example stretches detailed below. Whole body stretches should be undertaken during warm up and, as a minimum, stretches focusing on the leg muscles for a cool down.
Hold one arm out to your side – palm facing upward and rotate arm around 10-15 times then alternate arms. Repeat 2 to 3 times on either side.
Lean your head to one side then gently roll your head around to the other side – with your ear ending near your shoulder. Roll your head backwards and forwards from these 2 positions several times.
From a standing position lean forward against a wall or lamppost face forward. Gently swing one leg in front of the other like a pendulum – gradually swinging higher. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Stand up and take a half step back with your right foot. Bend your left knee and shift your weight back to your right hip until you feel the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds then alternate legs. Repeat 3 times on each leg.
Stand erect holding a lamppost or leaning against a wall for support. Lift one leg behind you so you can grasp your foot with your opposite arm – keep straight and push your knee gently back as far as you can. Hold for 20 seconds then switch legs. Repeat 3 times on each leg.
From standing lean forward against a wall or bench with one leg in front of the other and push to stretch your rear leg. You should feel the stretch in your calf muscle – hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each leg.
Stand by a wall or lamppost and hold upright with one hand for balance. Bend one leg at the knee and extend and swing this leg back and behind – repeat action 10 times then switch legs.
Websites that feature useful stretching advice include;
Injury prevention and treatment
A good warm up and cool down routine as well as a sensible approach to a training schedule will help to prevent injuries.
If you get injured or want to get an existing injury sorted out before getting into running there are a wide range of excellent physiotherapists and sports masseurs available, including:
Achilles Heel provides both physiotherapy and sports massage services.
Investing in a decent pair of running shoes is vital for making the experience of running as comfortable as possible and to reduce risk of injury. A specialist running shops such as Achilles Heel or Run4 It will carry out gait analysis, advise on and fit your running shoes. Poorly fitted training shoes could lead to injury.
Clothing worn whilst running is often down to personal preference but the follow points should be considered:
- Technical clothing that wicks sweat away from the body is often better than say cotton for keeping the body temperature regulated whilst running
- A number of thin layers are better than one thick one, particularly in colder weather, as they are easier to remove and apply as your body warms up/cools down
- If running in twilight or dark hours, remember to where a reflective jacket, bib or bands so that traffic, other road users and pedestrians can see you