Essential warm-up tips for Winter running
Warming up before your run is essential for avoiding injury in the Winter months. Fortunately just 30 seconds of each of the following exercises will switch on the muscles used for running and activate your nervous system. Stretching cold muscles (particularly in static stretches) can lead to injury and stepping out in the cold Winter air can have a similarly negative effect.
The cool air shocks the muscles, reducing blood flow causing them to feel tighter and leaving them prone to injury. By doing a few minutes of active, or dynamic stretching before you head off you can improve your running and reduce the risk of injury.
Here is the first exercise to open up your hips and to prevent tight hip flexors (very common with runners!). Start in a seated position on the floor or on a mat with your knees at 90 degrees. Flip just the knees over to the other side and rotate your torso as you do so, following the direction of the knees. Keep repeating this movement, holding the rotation for a couple of seconds each time.
This is a great mobility exercise to open up the hips and prevent any lower back pain or muscle ache. Starting in box position on your hands and knees, with your shoulders tracking over your wrists and your hips tracking over your knees. Make sure your feet are also hip-width apart. Imagining that you have a pen attached to your knee cap, draw knee circles with one leg. Perform 10 rotations in one direction and then change direction of the circle. Repeat on the other leg.
Deep squat hold and frog squat
This is the king of the hip-openers and also will alleviate any tight lower back muscles. You can either hold the deep squat position, with your elbow fixed on the inside of the knees (effectively opening up the hips more). Or for the frog squat, whilst maintaining a straight back and open chest, lift the hips up and down in a rocking motion. Perform either exercise for 30 seconds.
Although this warm-up for the upper back and shoulders is best done when lined up with your back against a wall, you can still do this from standing. Taking a deep breath in with your arms above your head, breathe out and draw the elbows down by the sides of your waist as you squeeze the shoulder blades together. You want to imagine a walnut stuck in between your shoulder blades and you’re trying to crack that walnut! Make sure you relax your shoulders whilst performing this exercise.
Achilles and calf muscles stretch
Your calf muscles and Achilles tendon are crucial to running. By giving them a good warm up your running will feel easier and you’ll reduce your chance of major injury. Bring one foot about an inch away from a wall, with the other foot placed behind about a foot length’s away. With both feet facing forward and pressing against the wall with both hands, draw your front knee towards the wall so it reaches it. It is important here to keep the heel of the back foot glued to the ground. Hold for about 15 seconds on one side and then switch legs.
Happy Winter running!