Warm-Up and Cool-Down: the Bookends of Your Race
Warm-Up: To improve performance and reduce the risk of injury, you should always warm up before running and especially before running at a higher intensity or racing.
- Begin with 5-10 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging: your pace should be EASY (about 50% effort) and much slower than your race pace. The goal: to break a sweat.
- Next you will need to focus on targeting specific muscles and ranges of motion (flexibility) required for running. You can actually target both with the right series of functional movements.
Lunge Matrix [Activates hip and thigh muscles, loosens hips]
-Perform 4 different lunges: forward, forward with a twist, side, and back; 3-5 reps each on each side (Don’t try these for the first time on race day, and keep them small at first to avoid overdoing it!)
Pedal Pushers [Dynamic calf stretching]
-In either a downward dog or traditional wall stretch position, pedal your heels back and forth: 5x with knees straight, 5x with knees bent, 5x with heels angled out, and 5x with heels angled in
Leg Swings with Abdominal Bracing [Hip opener with core activation]
-With a hand on a wall, fence or other support:
Swing the leg at the hip to the front and back while contracting your abdominal muscles (don’t hold your breath though). Use your abs to avoid letting your back arch when your leg goes behind you. 5-10x each leg
Swing the leg at the hip side to side while contracting your abdominal muscles (across the front of the body and then out to the side) 5-10x each leg
- If you have traditional static stretches in your normal pre-run ritual, now is a great time for them.
- If you’re getting ready for a high intensity race, drills such as skips, high knees, butt kicks, grape vines, bounds and strides are good to do in those last few minutes before the gun! Otherwise, try to keep moving, stay loose and rest assured you’ve taken smart steps towards a better, healthier race performance!
Cool-Down and Recovery: As much as you may want to collapse to the ground once you’ve scored your finisher’s medal and some H2O, your body needs you to stay on your feet for an active recovery!
- Avoid sitting down or standing still for at least 10 minutes after you finish; if possible, keep moving by walking or light jogging (slow, easy pace). You may be uncomfortable at first, but your body often starts to feel better at this slower recovery pace. Take the opportunity for a victory lap!
- After 10 minutes of active recovery, GENTLE static stretches may be performed at 3 x 30 seconds for major muscles groups such as the calves, quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, hip flexors, deep hip rotators and lower back. Stretch to the point of light resistance. This should not be painful! Coordinate deep breathing with your stretches for improved muscular relaxation.
- Light self-massage with a foam roller, “stick,” tennis ball or other tool may also be helpful to relax tired, overworked muscles.
- Be sure to replace the fluid, electrolytes and nutrients you lost. Make this a priority, especially if you’re feeling weak!
- Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the sweet exhaustion that follows a race well run!