Guest post from Louie Luc
There is nothing better than heading out at the break of dawn for an early morning run. The fresh air and exercise always getting me mentally ready for my day as well keeping me energized throughout the long afternoon hours. However, as I´ve grown into my mid-thirties, I´ve noticed that my body isn´t quite as resilient as it once was.
A decade ago, I could say out late with friends and still get up at 5 AM, pull on the running shoes, and go straight from bed to the road for my morning run. If I try and do that now, however, I won´t make it a 1/8th of a mile without the hamstrings starting to cramp up or my back feeling abnormally stiff.
They say that wisdom comes with age, and one thing I´ve learned is that if I´m going to be able to continue my morning job, I need to spend some time getting my body prepared. I´m going to share three great tips for the most complete warm up that will help you avoid unnecessary injuries.
Stretching is for After the Run
We´ve all probably spend a couple minutes before our run stretching out our quads, thighs, calves and back thinking that a brief stretch routine will help us avoid pulling any muscles. The truth, however, is that stretching helps us gain flexibility in the long run, but it doesn´t actually “stretch out” our muscles before a jog nor help us avoid any injuries.
It´s best to save your stretching routine for after your morning run so that over time your body will become more flexible. When your muscles are loose and warmed up after a run you´ll gain far more benefit from doing a quick stretching routine.
So how do I Warm Up?
Your body still needs to warm up before starting your run, and the best way is to spend 10 minutes doing some other less vigorous activity than running. I live about 10 minutes away from the park where I go for my morning run. I used to take the car down to the park, but now I walk and enjoy a small cup of coffee before actually getting to the park. By the time I start my run, my body has lost that “just gotten out of bed” feeling and my muscles are loose and stretched out.
You can also choose to walk for the first 10 minutes of your actual run until your body feels ready. Also, it´s probably not a great idea to go straight from walking to your breakneck, 5 minute a mile pace. Take it slow at first until, and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. You can save your most exerting pace for the last mile or two.
Hit the Gym at least Twice a Week
Weight training isn´t just for those massive body builders we see through the front windows of the gym. A light but consistent weight lifting routine will help improve your overall musculoskeletal fitness and will help you avoid injuries while running. Concentrate on building up leg muscles, especially your quads, hamstrings, and calves. Doing some weight lifting that targets the back and abs will also help strengthen your torso which, believe it or not, is also important for good runners.
Remember, the goal of weight lifting for the runner isn´t necessarily to build up massive muscles, but rather to strengthen the muscles around the bones so that you can avoid any long term injuries. A few months after beginning your weight training, you should find that the joint pains around your knees or the shin splints that have always bothered you are slowly starting to disappear.
Since weight lifting is another form of exertion on your body, however, it´s best to avoid hitting the gym and then going straight for a run. Rather, try to organize your routine so that the gym days are interspersed with the days you take a break from running.
No one wants to resemble that fifty-year-old woman you see every morning at the park who has two knee braces and whose running style looks more like a painful hobble. With the right care and prevention, injuries from running can be a thing of the past. Every runner has their own secrets for how they avoid injuries. Check out this list of some of the top running blogs on the web to find how other great runners avoid injuries and stay healthy running. ¤
Louie Luc is passionate about running. So much so that he became a runner, marathoner and an ultrarunner after his 30th birthday. When Louie is not “flying against the wind”, he is happily blogging about healthy lifestyle, nutrition and… running on his personal blog.