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The Guide to Stretching

By Colin McEndoo of Irish Fitness

Whether your planning a running session, gym session, sports session or competitive event then your warm-up ought to be a priority. There are several reasons for this but at the forefront of your mind should be injury prevention and joint health.

So here are just a few things to aim for...

Soft tissue work

Foam Rollers and Self myofascial release tools are readily available now, see your local lifestyle sports for a range of these. The internet is flooded with videos on how to use them, but really they’re quite simple with only a few general rules. The clue is in the name really, so just use them on soft tissue (muscle), don’t cross or put pressure on your joints. Areas to concentrate on before running are quads, IT band, calves and feet.

Dynamic Warm-up

We touched on this before in a previous article, but think about exercises or movements that will gently take your ankles, hips and thoracic spine (upper back) through their range of motion. Again a quick youtube search will see some good examples, but here’s a quick circuit to try at home before you go out, the only equipment you’ll need is a wall so no excuses...

1. Wall ankle drills. Stand with one foot about an inch away from the wall, keep your heel flat on the ground and tap your knee to the wall, you should feel a gentle stretch at the front of your ankle. Aim for 8-10 repetitions and repeat on the other leg.

2. Leg Swings. Standing upright find something to hold onto at arms length. Gently swing your leg to a height you’re comfortable with. Keep your upper body posture tight and tall, and try to get the movement from your hips. You should feel a slight stretch in your hamstring at the top of the swing. Aim for 10-12 on each leg.

3. Hip Circles. On all fours, start with one leg and take your knee to your elbow, out to the side and then straight back, creating as big a circle as you can. Try to keep your spine solid and straight and get the movement from your hip. Aim for 10-12 repetitions on each side and repeat with the other leg.

4. Thoracic Rotations. In the same position as above on all fours, take one hand and place it gently on the back of your head, keeping your hand there touch your elbow to elbow and then rotate the opposite direction towards the ceiling with as much rotation as possible. Turn your head in the same direction and try to get the movement through your mid back. Aim for 10-12 on either side.

Repeat those exercises in a circuit fashion two or three times.

Increase body temperature

When you think about your dynamic warm-up above, gradually increase the intensity as you move through it, a good rule of thumb is that you should have a light sweat as you finish them.

Mental attitude

This is something that many don’t consider, but while you’re making your way through all these it’s time to ‘switch yourself on’ for your task ahead. Think about your workout or session and walk yourself through it in your mind.

There you go, a few quick ideas to help guide you through a warm-up, once you’ve finished those start into your run with a gentle walk, long strides or gentle lunges before you take your intensity me, your body will thank you later having done a good warm-up.