Running Tips: The Warm Up and Cool Down Routine
By Matt Branigan
Matt is a certified running coach & founder of Rundamentals, an online training program for anyone interested in running.
We’ve all heard about warming up and cooling down, but how many of us actually do it?
Unless you ran in high school or college, it’s unlikely that these steps are part of your regular workout routine.
You’re not alone. I only discovered the benefits of these pre- and post-workout activities for myself once I had access to a running coach for the first time.
By adding a couple easy steps and a few minutes to your routine, you’ll be setting yourself up for faster recovery and helping to reduce the risk of injuries at the same time.
YOUR NEW RUNNING ROUTINE
Every one of your runs should follow these 5 simple steps:
STEP 1 : WARM UP
Take 2 –5 minutes and walk or jog slowly before your workout to prepare your body for the effort to come, and to help reduce the risk of injury at the same time. Warming up helps by:
- Pumping up your heart rate
- Warming you up and sending blood flow to your muscles
- Getting your nerves firing (leading to muscle movement)
- Increasing the joint liquid fluidity, leading to increased range of motion
Depending on the length and intensity of your workout, you might need more time to warm up. Could be anything from a couple of minutes to a couple of miles to prepare for a long run. The above is based on preparing for a 30–45 minute relaxed and easy run.
STEP 2 : STOP FOR A LIGHT STRETCH
Some light active stretching after a light walk or jog can help to relieve some tightness in muscles and increase mobility, which can help reduce the risk of injury.
- Always warm up before stretching. Never stretch cold.
- Move into stretches slowly
- Breath through the stretch, exhaling during the most intense part
- Gentle means light. No pulling or torquing.
Some of my favorite active stretches include:
- Calf raises
- Forward leg swings
- Lateral leg swings
- Knee hugs
- Neck and shoulder rotations
STEP 3: COMPLETE YOUR RUNNING WORKOUT
Now that you’re properly warmed up, it’s time to complete your run! If anything feels tight along the way, don’t hesitate to walk or stop to stretch again if you need to.
Pausing for a minute or two will have very little impact on your workout and can go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable and confident throughout the rest of your run.
STEP 4: COOL BACK DOWN
Take a couple minutes to walk or slowly jog, back to your car or around the block until your heart rate settles back down. Usually 2–5 minutes is sufficient, but take as much time as you need.
STEP 5 : FINISH WITH LIGHT STRETCHING (if you choose)
If it feels good or you’re feeling some tightness, feel free to do some more light stretching if you want to.
This can be a good way to help stop blood from pooling in your legs and feet, which can slow down your post run recovery.
That’s it. Just adding these few quick steps to your workout can help reduce your risk of injury, increase your running performance, and aid in recovery.
I’d say that’s worth the few extra minutes.
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Founder of Rundamentals: A guided online training program for anyone interested in starting to run. Use code: EASYRUN for 10% Off.
Always check with a physician before starting a new exercise program.