It’s a familiar scenario: the alarm snoozed for 20 more minutes, and instead of cutting your run short, you chose to skip the 10-minute warm up instead. Several beginners, and some seasoned runners as well, are guilty of omitting their pre-run stretches more than once due to time constraints, convenience or plain laziness. Whatever your excuse may be, it’s time to rethink.
Warming up regularly before a workout is as much a matter of habit as running itself; serious runners make it a point to incorporate it even in the shortest of runs, chiefly because it helps maintain the quality of their workouts.
It’s important to see your warm-up not as something separate from running, but as a way to ease in and maximize your performance on the track.
Warm-ups keep you from burning out too early; in a way, they provide a teaser of what is expected from your body in the following hour, preparing both your legs and your mind for the run ahead. From the physiological point of view, a good pre-run warm up makes you a better overall runner.
Warm-ups increase the temperatures of the muscles that will eventually be used while running, by making them contract more forcefully and relax faster. This eventually helps in improving your speed and strength during the run and lessens the chances of overstretching a muscle.
A good warm-up improves the elasticity of your muscles, reducing the stiffness and making them more flexible. It also increases the range of motion around a joint. This greatly reduces the chances of incurring muscle strains and pulls while running.
An important benefit of warming up is that it dilates your blood vessels and reduces your heart’s resistance to the increased blood flow – thus lowering stress on the heart.
Cools you off
By warming up, you activate your sweat glands even before you’ve started the run which leads to efficient cooling throughout your workout.
Facilitates oxygen supply
Blood temperature increases as it travels through the muscles during warm-up. This causes the oxygen-hemoglobin binding in blood to weaken, creating more oxygen supply for the muscles that need it. It also builds your endurance in the long run.
Hormones that are responsible for regulating energy production in your body are released more rapidly during warm-up. These particular hormones make more carbohydrates and fatty acids available during your run, resulting in added energy supply.
Those 10-15 minutes of stretches and jogs are a good way to fire up your mind and prepare for the run ahead. This way, you can clear your mind, increase your focus and approach a grueling workout with a positive approach.
For runners, static stretching is discouraged as a warm-up routine, as it can lead to injury. Instead light aerobic exercise helps loosen up the muscles. Walking briskly, marching, jogging slowly, or cycling on a stationary bike are all good options to help ease you into your run.
It’s also important that the level of your warm up matches the effort you intend to spend on your run; so, a faster or more challenging session should be complemented with a more thorough warm up.
Main image: Roddy Keetch