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How to Correctly Warm-Up Before Your Run
One of the fastest ways to get injured from running is to not stretch properly beforehand. The muscles are already tight, and running makes them tighten up even more, which puts runners at risk for muscle and joint damage. However, the stretches that are done have to be “dynamic.” Dynamic stretches mimic the moves of running. Some of the old stretches that were used are called “static.” They loosened and pulled the muscle into an elongated position. Static stretches increase the chances of injury because the muscle isn't warmed up enough to be elongated yet. An example of a static stretch is toe touches. Fitness experts have advised that doing static stretches also decreases a runner's performance level. The following are a few examples of dynamic stretches:
Standing up as straight as possible, pull one leg up to your chest in a gentle motion. Make sure the knee is bent. Pull your knee up as high as it will go. Then, do the same with the other leg. Continue this pattern for about 30 seconds. It works well to loosen up the muscles in the hamstrings and buttocks.
Straight Leg Walk
Sometimes, fitness fanatics call this move the “toy soldier” because it closely resembles the stiff movements of the doll's legs that don't bend at the knee. Stand up straight, and lift one leg in front of you into a 90-degree position. Don't bend your knees. Hold the position as long as you can. Then, switch legs.
Put your hands on your hips and take a big step forward until the back of your shoe hits your backside. Hold the position for a few seconds. Then, repeat the step. Walk your way several feet this way. Be sure to watch for any signs of knee discomfort with this stretch. If it hurts at all, stop immediately, and switch to a different stretch.
Instead of stepping forward, step sideways and do a lunge at the same time. So in other words, one leg points to the side, and the other leg is bent at the knee. Move your body in a sideways motion for several steps in one direction. Then, switch to the other leg, and move the opposite direction.
All of these dynamic stretches are to be used only before you run. The opinions of fitness experts on after-running stretches vary. Some of them say that it is best to switch to static stretches because the muscles have been warmed up properly. Others believe that it is only necessary to stretch any muscles that seem sore or tense. So be sure to do what is best for your body and health needs. Don't forget to do a slow jog at the end of your run to help relax the muscles some. Walking at a fast pace that gradually declines in speed will also work.