Contributed by Laura Comtois PT, DPT - Fit For Life Physical Therapy
What is a dynamic warm-up and why should I do one before I run or walk? A dynamic warm-up is a distinct set of movements completed prior to a physical activity, which will increase blood flow & heart rate, and move joints through their normal range of motion to prepare the body for the upcoming activity.
Athletes on sports teams do this before their activities, whether in a game or practice. Runners & walkers are no different. All too often we see runners & walkers do a couple static stretches and claim to use their first mile as a “warm-up.” That’s not really a warm-up, if you recall that even a slow run still creates the same amount of impact on the body as a fast run (3-4 times our body weight with each foot fall). So, a few static stretches and a slow first mile will not prepare your body for running or walking in the same way that a good dynamic warm-up will.
Here are some tips on how to properly prepare your body to run or walk in training and on race day:
- The warm-up should be at least 10 minutes of continuous activity, gradually increasing intensity as you go. This reduces risk of injury by warming up muscles and the cardiovascular system. It also allows time to achieve 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.
- Movements should include all areas of the body that will be working during the activity. For running, this includes all joints and muscles from the toes through the shoulders, with the majority of movements focused on the legs. Examples of movements are squats, lunges forward, lunges sideways, and hip openers.
- It’s okay to do a stretch and hold it if you notice tight areas, but return to the dynamic warm-up after holding and stretching. Don’t count the static stretch as part of the warm-up.
- Static stretching should definitely be done after training, when muscles are fully warmed up. This is how you maintain ideal muscle length, avoid tightening afterward, and prevent injuries.
These tips are basic, yes, but setting aside the time to incorporate a dynamic warm-up into your routine will have you feeling good at the start of training days, reduce your risk of injury, and prepare your mind and body much better for race day.
If you need more advice regarding your dynamic warm-up, please call or text us at Fit For Life Physical Therapy, 614-981-2065.
Laura Comtois PT, DPT
Fit For Life Physical Therapy