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Warming Up For Running Season

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Hey runners and weekend warriors, we are quickly approaching the running and triathlon seasons! Or at least we hope we are… fingers crossed no more snow.

So, as the weather warms let’s talk about how you should approach warming up for a run.

Dynamic or static stretching? Have you tried either before running or do you just walk out the door and take off down the trail?

Dynamic stretching typically involves movement with the stretch while static stretching is just holding a stretch in one position for a set time. Both have their benefits and both have their time to be utilized, but let’s take a look at them a little closer and see when and how they should be used.

When we warm up it is important to get the blood flowing. You know the feeling when you get up first thing in the morning and everything is stiff and cold, right? That is not the time to try to stretch and hold because the muscles are not in a state to allow for that. Incorporating movement into our warm up allows for the tissues to warm up. Click here for a warm up routine from our colleague, “A Dash of Dana,” that she does to help her get ready for her runs.

Active dynamic stretching techniques have been shown to increase performance for general populations, while static stretching increases flexibility but decreases force and power output (Lima, C. et. al). This means that static stretching does increase range of motion, but it leaves the muscle fatigued. Fatigued muscles could lead to a decrease in stability and open the door for an injury during the run.

Dynamic stretching for five minutes has been shown to decrease hamstring stiffness, increase knee range of motion and decrease potential injury (Iwata, M. et al). A decrease in stiffness in the hamstring means a longer and more balanced stride. Dynamic stretching is linked to better performance in acceleration, speed and agility when applied in a warm up session (Kilit, B., et. al). In patients with inflexible hamstrings dynamic stretching with strengthening exercises was found to be far superior for improving muscle activation (Lee, J., Jang, K., et. al).

Another study found that muscle stiffness significantly decreased after dynamic stretching where as no significant change was seen after static stretching (Zhang, X. et al).

Okay, so you see that dynamic stretching is important before we train. But, where does static stretching fall into play?

After the work is done! When our muscles need to rebuild, they need blood flow to do so. After training it is not uncommon to feel our muscles tighten up and when that happens, we do see less blood flow reaching the worked tissues. Passive static stretching improves vascular function allowing the tissue to get the nutrients needed for recovery (Bisconti, A., et al). The statements above all showed increase in flexibility with static stretching but showed decreased performance.

Click here to check out a few of our favorite post workout stretches.

Dynamic stretching has shown to be a very effective tool for warm ups and honestly there is very little evidence that static stretching has the same benefits. We like to incorporate both into our workouts with the appropriate timing.

As always, we encourage you to work with a trainer, coach, or doctor that knows your history and your goals. That way it is clear to everyone what you want to accomplish.

Get out and get moving!

Jeric Toney, D.C.


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