Most of us are aware that warming up and cooling down go hand in hand with exercise and physical activity. However, what it actually does and how it should be done isn’t always clear. A good warm-up will increase the elasticity of muscles and tendons, encourage blood flow to the periphery of the body and increase body temperature and heart rate in preparation for activity.
Just as critical, the cool down keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. Winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually.
Time Required: 5-10 minutes for warm-up; 5-10 minutes for cool down
Before you begin stretching, do about 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise, such as marching, jogging slowly or walking briskly, to loosen up your muscles and warm you up for your run. Make sure you don’t rush your warm-up.
Static stretching before a run is not advised as it can hurt your performance. However dynamic stretches, which use controlled leg movements to improve range of motion, loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to help you run more efficiently.
Swing one leg out to the side, and then swing it back across your body in front of your other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side. In case you feel a loss of balance, hold onto a steady object.
While standing tall, walk forward with an exaggerated backswing so that your heels come up to your glutes. When this is easy, try it while jogging. Do 10 reps on each side.
Get in a “pike” position (hips in the air). Put your right foot behind your left ankle. With your legs straight, press the heel of the left foot down. Release. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes. Advance this by adding a skipping motion. Do 10 reps on each side.
Step forward using a long stride, keeping the front knee over or just behind your toes. Lower your body by dropping your back knee toward the ground. Maintain an upright posture and keep your abdominal muscles tight.
After this, begin your run by jogging slowly and gradually begin to build up your speed. You should be breathing very easily. If you feel yourself getting out of breath, slow down.
After you finish your run, cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5 to 10 minutes.
Stretch fully after your cool down. Your body should be warm and stretching should be easy. You should stretch your lower back, neck, calves, quadriceps neck, calves, hamstrings and groin area. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and perform each stretch 1-3 times. Never bounce while stretching and remember a stretch should never feel like you’re hurting yourself. If it hurts, stop that stretch immediately.