Warm Up and Cool Down Strategies for Runners

by Tia Dewick in Training

Many runners, particularly new runners, forget or don’t provide themselves enough time to warm up before and cool down after a run. However, this can lead to injury which may therefore reduce or even completely halt your training for weeks or months. Alternatively, to prevent injury from occurring, here are some great strategies to implement both before and after your run:

Glutes are one of the most essential muscles required for runners. Due to the predominantly sedentary nature of this generation’s lifestyles, the glutes very commonly become underactive which can further cause them to become weak and tight. Alternatively, prior to a run, warming up the glutes can help engage this muscle group which can also help improve your running mechanics and your performance. So how do you warm up effectively prior to a run?
1) Using a foam roller on the legs and glutes encourages blood flow to encourage muscle activation. Aim to roll each muscle group for up to 30 seconds to get the optimal benefit
2) To further warm up and activate the relevant muscle groups and to help improve mobility, dynamic exercises such as sumo squats and lunges are perfect exercises to complete for approximately 30 seconds each
3) Finally, to directly warm up the glutes, find yourself a resistance band and complete some crab walks and clamshells, again for approximately 30 seconds each
Now you should be ready for your run!

Stretching after your run is extremely important. The quadriceps and hamstrings are typically the only muscles stretched by your average Joe, but be sure to also stretch the glutes and the hip flexors. Many individuals also merely stretch their lower body, but running is a whole body workout and so you must also stretch the upper body, particularly the core and back as these muscles are recruited during running to stabilise and control your run. For optimal flexibility enhancement, aim to hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
Additionally, although some people may feel as though they get more benefit from foam rolling after a run as they can get deeper into the muscle tissue, it’s important to consider the benefits of each type of muscle cool down. Yes, foam rollers can get deeper into the muscle tissue to really dig out any knots and tight muscles; BUT foam rolling cannot improve your flexibility. Without a good range of flexibility your are more likely to adopt inefficient running movement mechanics and are more likely to pull a muscle. So if you are one of those individuals that always utilise the foam rolling method, be sure to test your flexibility and see how it sits in relation to the national average for your age. If you are not within a good range of flexibility, be sure to increase your use of static stretching post-running.