We’ve all heard that it’s important to warm-up before you Run, but why? With cold winter runs approaching, it’s time to look at the science behind warming up and why it’s so necessary. This article also provides tips for making a short warm-up an easy and convenient part of your exercise routine. Much of the information below comes from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The science behind your warm-up

  • Muscles tighten more in colder temperatures, making them less elastic and more prone to injury.
  • Warming up before you run can increase the temperature of your muscles and make it easier for them to contact more efficiently.
  • It’s important to differentiate between static and Dynamic Stretching (static is holding a certain stretched posed (like touching your toes) for a length of time, while dynamic stretching involves active movement, think high-knees or jumping jacks).
  • A study comparing static and dynamic stretching by measuring jump height and flexibility after the respective stretches. Researchers found that while there was no difference in flexibility, the jump height was greater for the group that performed dynamic stretching. The study’s authors concluded, “Athletes in sports requiring lower-extremity power should use DS [dynamic stretching] techniques in a warm-up to enhance flexibility while improving performance.”

How do I warm-up before and run and how long does it take?

Sure, you’re a runner because you like to run, so why spend time stretching when you could already be ten minutes into your jog?

When you’re tempted to skip the warm-up and jump into your run, consider that a proper warm-up can lower your risk of injury and keep you from joining the leagues of injured runners. Below is a list of popular dynamic exercises intended to loosen and relax your muscles to prepare you for an efficient and quality run.

  • Butt kicks- When doing this exercise, focus on landing softly on the ground with minimal impact while swinging your legs back towards your glutes as far as is comfortable.
  • High knees- This exercise is an excellent way to warm-up your hip flexors after a day of sitting. Consider it essentially the opposite of butt kicks.
  • Leg swings- When doing leg swings, hold onto something to maintain your balance while swinging your leg forward and back.
  • Walking lunges-Concentrate on getting your thighs parallel to the ground and avoid allowing your knee to extend beyond your ankle.

Warming up before you run helps reduce the chances of injury and improve the quality of your run.

Just taking ten minutes to do several of the exercises described above can be the difference between a run with tight muscles prone to injury, and more relaxed muscles prepared for a vigorous cold-weather workout.