Ask your grandmother what she did before she went running and I'll bet your next marathon entry fee she'll say, "I stretched."
Traditionally, it was common for athletes to do absolutely no warm-up—just simple stretching.
Most experts and running coaches no longer recommend static stretching as a warm-up and have found that not only can it hinder performance (in other words, you'll run slower), but it can also increase your risk of injury.
The Importance of Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching includes strength moves and exercises that increase range of motion. Rather than holding one static stretch for a certain period of time, a dyanmic warm-up challenges the specific parts of your body that you will use during your run.
Instead of static stretching, do about 10 minutes of dynamic stretching before your run, which accomplishes many critical aspects of an effective warm-up:
- Opens capillaries throughout your body (particularly the legs)
- Improves circulation and blood flow
- Lubricates joints, preparing them for more rigorous work
- Warms the muscles (which is what a warm-up is supposed to do in the first place)
- Improves range of motion, efficiency and coordination
The runners that I coach do a dynamic warm-up before every run to help them prepare for their workout. And if you're racing—anything from a 5K to a half marathon—it's especially important to do so.
A comprehensive, dynamic warm-up prevents injuries and forms the foundation of coordination and mobility that enable you to be a more athletic runner.