How to make the most of your running
Making the most of your running involves making sure your running preparation is spot on. How you warm up, how you stretch and how you recover all matter in terms of the long-term enjoyment of your runs.
The body is highly adaptable and durable and can cope with the strain and pressure that running can cause. However, it does require that you take all the necessary measures to stay injury free and healthy.
Managing and maintaining your body in a way that helps prevent injury pays dividends long-term (even though it can be tempting to skip warm ups and cool downs sometimes!)
But what is involved, and why are the start and finish of each run so important?
Proper Running Preparation – Don’t rush it!
Warming up properly before a run is essential. That is because there are certain physiological changes that take place that are essential for your body to adapt to the activity ahead.
As the name would suggest, a warm-up causes the body’s muscles to heat up. This is important because it allows the muscles to stretch further. Just think about how much more a balloon will expand if you stretch it and warm it up first. It’s a useful reminder of how much more you can do with your body when it is sufficiently warm.
The warm-up will also increase blood flow, which in turn will deliver more oxygen to the muscles.
And finally, it helps prepare the heart for the more vigorous activity to follow.
And don’t think you can skip the warm-up just because you are going for a shorter run. You need to include it before each run, and you need to make sure the warm-up is thorough.
As a bare minimum, the warm-up should include at least two or three minutes of faster-paced walking, some light jogging or striding and some dynamic flexibility exercises.
Proper Running Recovery
You often see a novice runner sprint the last section of a training run and hunch over their knees as they check the time on their watch.
But for the most part, finishing sprints should be saved for race days.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you cool down properly is to ease off towards the end of your run.
The aim should be to decelerate into a slow jog and then make sure you walk for two or three minutes.
This gradual deceleration allows the heart rate to come down gradually and helps you to avoid blood pooling. You want to avoid blood pooling at all costs, as it can play havoc with your veins.
A gradual cool down will also help you to restore a normal breathing pattern and help you to avoid faintness or dizziness.
As part of your cooldown, you should include some stretching. But unlike in the warm-up phase, these stretches should be static as opposed to dynamic.
To learn more about the importance of proper stretching, and to know which types of stretching are most appropriate pre and post run, it is incredibly useful to consult with a qualified physiotherapist.
Whatever you do, make sure you take the time to always warm-up and cool down properly. It’s worth the extra bit of effort it takes.