As runners, we do like to go out and do a run. What many of us are less good at is getting ourselves ready for the run. And cooling down afterwards.
I think it’s more of an issue at this time of year i.e. when it’s cold/wet/generally grim. We just want to get out there and then get back again with the minimum delay.
There does seem to be a lot of commentary out there about what we should and shouldn’t do with our warm-ups and cool-downs. Some of which is contradictory. Today I thought I would look at what I try to do. Admittedly not always achieving it!
The warm up
The first very-neglected aspect is the warm up. i.e. warming up the muscles before exercise. As I stated earlier, most runners just want to get on with the main course and are happy to skip the starter!
My understanding of a warm up is to gradually increase the heart rate and to warm up the muscles we are going to use for the run. The principle being that we’re less likely to pull/injure a muscle if it has been gently warmed up first. In theory, the warm-up would be tailored entirely with the main session in mind. In practice, any warm up is better than none at all.
Warm ups are a dynamic exercise. So we want to get the body moving in order to warm it up, rather than just trying to stretch it out and hope for the best. Again, the logic being that static stretching a cold muscle is more likely to damage it. Which isn’t what we want to happen.
I often start the warm up with a gentle jog to raise the heart rate. From there I tend to use form-based exercises in order to engage the muscles I’m going to use in my run. For example, I know when I’ve done a heavy hill session that my hamstrings generally tell me all about it afterwards. Therefore I may look to ensure they are sufficiently warmed up in the first place.
Warm-ups don’t need to take up a huge amount of time.
The main event
There’s little point trying to describe this as it really depends on what you’re wanting to do. Instead I’ll seamlessly splice in my run today.
Despite the doom-mongers of bad-weather past screaming ‘SNOW’ yesterday, here in Stockport, we didn’t get any. I caveat that as mid-afternoon Sunday as I’m writing this, the white stuff is falling at last. I don’t think we can expect any snowmen larger than about 3 inches being made unless it gets a little more serious…….
Yes it was white up in Lyme Park yesterday, as it was at Mottram-in-Longdendale where I was inspecting a bell frame. But lower down in altitude, it had turned to rain.
So the over-riding concern of my run today was that there may be a bit of ice in places. Rather than a risk of disappearing up to my neck in snow.
The simple way to reduce the risk of this former point is to go off-road. I had a think about places I fancied and ended up driving to Chadkirk Country Estate. Chadkirk has some quiet paths, plus routes up to the Peak Forest Canal heading off towards Romiley and Marple. In a previous life I used to work in this area (on paper anyway). So it’s all quite familiar.
Here’s my route:
The cool-down aspect of running is almost as regularly ignored as the warm-up. The principle in cooling down is a recovery exercise. Firstly you’re wanting to gently bring your heart-rate back down to its normal resting rate. Secondly, its recommended to stretch out the muscles used in the main run. It’s all too easy to jump straight back into the car after going somewhere for a run because it’s cold/you’re running late. Or like yesterday for me, both of the above.
One aspect to be aware of, especially on cold days is that you need to be careful you don’t allow yourself to suddenly get cold. You’re nice and warm when you’re running about, but as soon as you stop, you can become cold super-quick, especially if your running kit is wet. I’d recommend to have another warm and dry layer to put on at the end.
In terms of cool-down exercises it does depend on what your main session was like. If you’ve been hammering out intervals/sprints/theshold, you’ll want to do a gentle jog recovery to gradually reduce heart rate. If the session was a lower intensity, this aspect isn’t as critical but still worth doing.
Although there seems to be a mixture of opinions about where static stretching after a session is good or bad. For I prefer to do this. Static stretching is when you stretch and hold a muscle for a period of time, ironing out the kinks in the muscle fibre and helping to promote greater flexibility and range of movement. Like in the warm-up I look to focus on the muscles which have been worked during the main session.
There’s a decent select of static stretches explained on the Runbritain website.
What’s #REDBED all about?
During December 2017 I’m running every day (RED) and blogging every day (BED). This is part of the ‘Run Up 2 Christmas‘ challenge raising money and awareness for the charity MIND. Here’s my original post explaining it all.