Warming up muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons is vital in preventing injury as the warm up gently prepares the body for activity. Muscles that have been adequately prepared have improved blood supply which the muscle needs when undergoing aerobic activity. It also promotes elastin activation within the muscle to facilitate large amplitude movements. Warm up times and activities vary greatly, but a brisk walk or skipping for approximately 5 minutes can be sufficient so long as the desired effect of elevating the heart rate and warming the body is achieved.
One should always stretch prior to running and adhere to the following guidelines:
• Hold Time: Work up to holding each stretch for 20 seconds or more.
• Set Count: Three to five sets of holding a stretch, per leg.
• Breathing: Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale out your mouth during each stretch.
Calf Stretch: With your arms extended and your back straight, place both palms on a sturdy surface, preferably a wall. Put the calf you want to stretch behind you, being sure to keep your heel pressed to the floor and the leg extended without bending the knee. The other leg is in a lunged forward position in between the wall and the extended leg. Keeping your heel down and your hips straight, slowly bend your elbows and lean towards the wall.
Hamstring Stretch: stand tall with your left foot a few inches in front of your right foot and your left toes lifted (pulled up towards your face). Bend your right knee slightly and pull your abdominals gently inward. Lean forward from your hips, and rest both palms on top of your right thigh for balance and support.
Quadriceps Stretch: Stand and touch a wall or stationary object for balance. Grasp the top of the ankle or forefoot of the leg to be stretched. Straighten the hip by moving the knee backwards.