Running is a popular past time for many people, be it athletes, weekend warriors, or those setting out to improve their health or lose weight. However, with our busy lives we often neglect to take the time to properly warm up before we go on our daily jog, which may increase our risk of muscle strains or cumulative injuries. So how can we ensure an effective warm up when we are low on time with our daily routine?
The answer is with an effective dynamic warm up! Rather than holding prolonged stretches that can be tedious and of limited effect, a dynamic warm up involves movement. It aims to prepare our body - specifically our leg muscles, joints and nervous system - for the forces encountered when running. This is done through drills that employ different components of the running movement. In this way it 'primes' our musculoskeletal system and nervous system to the load and movement that it is about to experience. This can help us to move better and reduce the risk of subsequent strain or injury.
The video below shows a sequence of three dynamic warm up exercises that can be performed prior to running. Perform each exercises for 1-2 mins before you go for your daily run. It is simple, quick and effective if you are short on time and looking for bang for your buck!
The first exercise is a drill that alternates between a hamstring stretch and a hip flexor stretch in the half kneel position. To stretch the hamstring dig your heel into the ground, lean forward and poke your tailbone back. Then to stretch the hip flexor on the opposite lean forwards to extend the opposite hip whilst you remain upright. This is repeated on the opposite leg. By alternating between these movements it helps to warm the legs up for striding back and forth at the hips.
The second exercise is called 'sprinter marching'. Use a wall, pole, or bench to lean forwards and push with your upper body and legs, as though you are trying to shift a weight along the ground. In this position alternately push up and down onto your toes, pressing your heel down into a calf stretch movement at the bottom of each repetition. This mimics the action of the calves where they lengthen whilst contracting as we run. Make sure your movement is smooth and controlled at a moderate pace.
The final exercise involves bounding and landing on one leg at a time. Practice landing with a soft knee, and lean forward slightly at your hip. This will help your leg to shock absorb more effectively. Try to 'stick' each landing, holding a stable single limb stance, before you bound on again.
As for any sort of warm up or exercise there are many variations, and depending on the individual static stretches or other drills may be clinically indicated. try out this dynamic warm up before your next run and talk to your physio about what else can be done to make your running efficient and effective!
The Gap Physio