Consider your warm-ups and cool-downs mandatory.
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In order to prepare the body for the demands of running and racing, most runners know that a proper warm-up beforehand as well as a cool-down after is good practice. But it’s not just elites and serious competitors that should be doing it. All runners can benefit from adding this to their routine.
Why bother warming up?
Imagine jumping (OK, rolling) out of bed and immediately be expected to start your job within minutes of being awake. It’s just not going to happen.
The same is true of running, training and racing. This is why the first few kilometres of any run often feels awful and sometimes feel like a slog. Your body most definitely needs some warming up before it’s ready to function optimally. This idea applies regardless of the type of run you’re doing but runners should take it seriously especially before a harder run like a workout or race. The first five to ten minutes is meant to prime the heart, lungs, muscles and joints for what’s to come and gradually prepare for a harder effort (or make an easy effort actually feel easy).
Warming up can and should be kept relatively simple. Commit at least 10 minutes to running as easy and comfortably as you can. If you’re doing a workout or race, we suggest you consider following this up with a few simple running drills (think high knees, butt kicks, fast feet, walking lunges, etc.) and strides to really prime the body for the faster running soon to come.
All in all, a good and effective warm-up can take as little as 15-20 minutes in total and will both make your workout smoother and also help to avoid injury.
Can’t I skip the cool down?
So you just finished your intervals, hills, tempo or perhaps even a race… you’re exhausted and all you want to do is stop.
Doing as little as five minutes (but preferably more) of very easy running will go far in helping you to recover and rebound from a hard effort. How exactly? Those extra few minutes of easy running (and yes, you can expect them to be slow and sluggish) will continue to pump blood to the working (overworked?) muscles . That helps to remove metabolic waste products as well as deliver anabolic/regenerative proteins to aid in recovery of damaged muscles.
A good cool-down doesn’t need to take up a whole lot of time. Ten to fifteen minutes is ideal, although you could also add a few strides, running drills or stretches to round out the process.