Runners, Here's How to Warm Up & Cool Down
The warm up and cool down are probably the easiest parts of a workout to skip. Realistically they should both be considered crucial parts of every workout.
A simple warm up is designed to get the body moving before you actually get moving. When you think about a warm up it shouldn't just be a physical activity, there are different aspects to it that help get your body ready to move.
A warm up will typically involve dynamic stretching and mobility exercises like hip cars, cat/cow or worlds greatest stretch. You can also include more functional activities of low intensity, for example walking lunges or body weight squat jumps that will help increase heart rate and core temperature. If you have aches, pains or an injury you are working through you can focus your warm up to those specific parts of the body to prep them for the demands of the workout. I recommend consulting with a physical therapist who can point you in the right direction for this kind of warm up.
Here is a checklist of things that your warm up should accomplish.
Increase Blood Flow - you should feel warmer and maybe even start sweating, this would include functional movements like the walking lunge
Enhance Muscle Function - this is workout dependent but certain muscles should feel activated. For example if you are going for a run you want targeted muscle activations for the lower body to make the muscle more pliable
Mental Preparation - you don't want to feel groggy or negative about a workout because it brings everything down and usually leads to a negative experience, so try to prepare your mind by going over goals, visualize race situations and find your rhythm
Reduce Risk of Injury - increased tissue temperature before activity will help you feel better doing the activity and also potentially prevent muscle strains and other injuries
Improve Performance - Increased ability to move more efficiently, increase focus on specific movements, prime the body for exercise
Check out these examples of a simple warm up you can do before your run.
A cool down is an essential component to the workout and should be included as part of your activity. The key is using gentle stretching and movement activities to bring the body back to its resting state. This doesn't need to last very long, but transitioning the body out of workout mode is going to help prevent soreness, reduce body stress and improve recovery times.
Here is a checklist of things your cool down should accomplish.
Gradual Recovery - slowly cool the muscle off post activity, this should help reduce muscle tightness, soreness or irritation, for example taking a run down to a walk for a few minutes before ending a workout
Prevent Tightness, Waste and Blood Pooling - redistribute blood flow from targeted muscles with foam rolling, stretching and gentle mobility work to flush out biproducts like lactic acid and aid in muscle recovery
Mental Transition - leave time for reflection on the workout whether positive or negative its good to have the ability to accept it and move on, turning off activity mode and coming back to normal life
Here is a simple stretch/mobility routine you can try after your next workout.
The wellness industry has introduced a ton of different recovery modalities like cold plunges, IV Drips, light therapies, massage guns, compression sleeves and salt baths. These are all tools that you can take advantage of to aid in your recovery. The hard part is taking the time to do them. If you find one that works for you and you feel it helps then get in the routine of using it to aid in recovery.
For a lot of these therapies, there are mixed effects from person to person. I recommend trying them all to see how you respond to each of them. If there is one that you notice a significant difference with, then boom! You have a good recovery tool you can use.
An appointment with a Running Coach or Physical Therapist is a great way to get a personalized plan for your warm ups and cool downs. When performed regularly you will really notice a difference in your performance pre and post activity.