It’s long been known that holding stretches before you run is sending your body the wrong message.

And it’s generally been accepted for some time that doing proper stretches after you run helps to recover length and quality to the soft tissues as part of your recovery.

Doing yoga or other such movement and elongating activities in between running sessions is when you can actually improve on soft tissue pliability and range of motion.

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In terms of performance and injury prevention, dynamic stretching has been found to prepare the body best for activity.

In fact, mimicking the activity you want to engage in is perhaps the best form of warm-up an athlete can do.

That’s why walking and jogging and then doing strides are a great way to limber up for a good workout or race. But even before you start those activities, there are some key movements you can ease into in order to let your body know what you’re up to and what’s coming up in terms of demand.

For me, it’s clear that runners, especially distance runners, lead with their hips. This is what allows you to move forward most effortlessly and allows your connective tissues to do the work of propelling you forward taking less demand off your muscles.

So a good dynamic warm up will include hip circles and hip swings before running. This is dynamic stretch recommendation number 1.

Stand on one leg with an outstretched hand holding onto something to provide support as you take the free leg and gently make clockwise and counter clockwise movements, first in 10 small circles and then 10 larger circles of increasing radius, with the leg appropriately abducted (lifted to the side) so that when making a circle your foot does not hit the leg that’s holding you up.

Once completed, you then ease into pendulum like swinging movements with the leg from the hip by moving first in a forward and backward motion (as in kicking a ball) and then a side to side movement from left to right.

With the circles and the swinging, always go as far as you comfortably can, and just a bit more to encourage movement, but never force the movement or go into discomfort. Listen to your body and take what it has to give…in this manner, it will give you more of that motion over time.

Because running is a linear activity and the best warm up is recreating or preparing your body for what it will specifically be doing, dynamic stretch recommendation number 2 is a walking lunge.

Normally lunges may be seen as a strengthening activity and when done properly they surely act in his regard. However, when done in a “sloppy” fashion, they can be a great warm up mechanism for running, especially when looking to run fast in a workout or shorter race.

Instead of emphasizing the vertical movement in the lunge as when used for exercise, try emphasizing the forward motion in the lunge by continuously moving forward without pausing and by keeping a smooth transition from one leg to the other.

These longer walking strides, in essence, will open up the hips and when done with with good tall posture will engage the pelvis with the low back for better mechanics while running.

Doing 10 forward walking lunges and 10 backward walking lunges will help not only dynamically stretch for a warm-up but further engage your nervous system to wake-up and prepare for activity due to the exaggerated nature of the stride length in a lunge.

While a lot of attention is typically paid to the legs and pelvis in a running warm up as above, the arms are of obvious value as well.

Dynamic stretch recommendation number 3 is to swing the arms forward and back in three particular ways.

stretching exercises before running2

First, in an exaggerated hugging fashion switching which arm overlaps, swing the arms around your own torso to give yourself a big squeeze. Do this 5 times continuously. Then swing your arms over your head and back behind you like you were going to do a standing long jump, but with your legs still, 5 times.

Finally, with your arms straight out to the sides, do 5 small circles and 5 big circles clockwise and counter clockwise with the palms facing upward. Your arms provide valuable stability, counterbalance and propelling force while running and need to be properly prepped to engage in this activity.

Of course, there are many other dynamic stretching activities that can be used to prepare the body for running and depending on the nature of the run, workout, or race, care should be taken to ensure the proper amount and type of warm-up is conducted. Generally the longer and slower the effort, the easier the warm-up can be.

The shorter and faster the effort, the warm-up should be more engaging. For a full body dynamic range of motion warm up that is great for runners as well as computer workers, students of all ages and even seniors, contact me at drdave@timehealthmanagement.com for a great 90 second routine to help keep you in the game of life.

Dr. David Koivuranta is a practicing Doctor of Chiropractic in Toronto, ON and provides corporate health and wellness services while also consulting with other health and wellness providers on an international basis.

He graduated in 1997 from Northwestern Health Sciences University and has been an avid runner for over 25 years. He has raced track distances to marathons and coached high school, university, competitive and recreational runners of all ages.

He encourages every person to find an activity they love and strives to help everyone do that activity for the rest of their lives. He can be reached at drdave@timehealthmanagement.com or 416-697-7918.)

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