Two Parts:Warming Up Before a RunStretching After a RunCommunity Q&A
You’re about to go on a run. Maybe it’s a sprint, maybe it’s a marathon, or maybe it’s just a jog around the neighborhood. In any case, a dynamic warm up will increase the power of your muscles and enable you to run further without pain. After the run, make sure to slow down gradually and perform long, static stretches for any muscles that feel tense.
Part 1 Warming Up Before a Run
- Minimize static stretches before exercise.
Many people use the words “stretch” and “warm up” interchangeably, but they serve different purposes. Stretches involve holding your muscles in place in a lengthened position. This loosens and relaxes your muscle, which may reduce running efficiency. Instead, prepare for a workout by warming up with the exercises below, or anything that gets your muscles moving.
- Many athletes refer to warm ups as “dynamic stretches” or “active stretches,” as opposed to “static stretches” where you hold a muscle still.
- Despite what you may have heard, static stretches probably do not help prevent injury. Over-stretching with static stretches may even increase the risk of cramps and pulled muscles.
- Perform heel flicks.
Jog forward at a slow pace. As you run, bring your knee up in line with your hips, and bring your foot back to touch your bottom. Repeat this motion with alternating legs. You may gradually increase your running speed, but don’t go beyond a moderate pace.
- This exercise — along with the high knees, power skips, and lunges below — warm up all the muscles of your lower body. This is useful for all runs, but put extra focus on them before a long-distance run, as cramps are a higher danger.
Add high knees to your warm up. As you run at a slow to moderate pace, bring your knee up above your waistline. This is easier if you hold your hands and forearms out horizontally from your body.
Learn power skips. While jogging forward, start to skip with the aim of jumping as high as you can on each skip. Drive one knee up as high as you can with each jump, and lift the arm opposite that knee up above your ahead as well. Try to keep the skipping smooth, and aim for height rather than forward speed.
- Practice your lunges.
Stretch your leg out and plant in on the ground in front of you, with your knee behind your toes. Slowly lower your body until your can easily touch the ground with your hands. Hold this for three seconds and return to a standing position. Repeat on alternate sides.
- Lunges can be dynamic and static stretches depending on how quickly you lunge and how long you hold the position.
Lie on your back and kick. Straight-legged scissors kicks prepare your legs for explosive movement, while “running” or “cycling” in the air warm up the whole suite of leg muscles.
- “Open the gate.
“ This stretch reduces tension in your groin and thighs, which is important for long-distance running but not too relevant for sprints. To do this, stand on one leg and lift your other knee to hip level. Rotate the raised leg out away from your body, feeling the stretch in your groin. Now “close the gate” by returning the knee in front of you before lowering your leg.
Repeat with alternating legs.
- Get your heart rate up.
For any type of run, increasing your heart rate first will reduce lactic acid buildup, helping you run for longer with less pain. If you’re blood’s not pumping yet, finish up with some jumping jacks or jogging in place.
- This step is especially important for sprints. Before a sprinting race, try warming up with five 40 meter sprints back and forth.
Part 2 Stretching After a Run
Slow down gradually after a run. If you’ve been running all-out, don’t stop abruptly. Instead, slow down your running speed until you eventually reach a walking pace. This helps your muscles expel lactic acid, and helps prevent muscle cramps.
- Stretch your quads.
Now is the time for slow, deep static stretches to help your muscles relax. Begin with your legs, standing on one foot and holding your ankle back against your bottom with one hand. This stretches the quad (front thigh) muscle on the leg you’re holding. Hold for twenty seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
- In general, try to hold each static stretch below for roughly twenty seconds.
- Touch your toes to stretch your hamstring.
This is the muscle on the back of your thigh, which tends to get especially tense while running. Try to touch your toes while standing up or seated with your legs outstretched. Reach across your body to touch the foot with the opposite arm, then repeat on your other side.
- Don’t force this past mild discomfort, or you could tear something. Your flexibility will improve over time if you keep stretching.
Stretch your shoulders. Although they aren’t under as much stress as your legs, your shoulders do tend to tense up when you run. Bring one arm across your chest, holding it with the other hand. Hold twenty seconds, then repeat with the other arm.
- Stick to light exercise during next-day soreness.
If you’re sore the next day, your muscles need a little time to repair before they’re back in top condition. A light jog or other light exercise can speed this up. That said, this delayed soreness is not due to lactic acid, so vigorous exercise will not make it go away, and will likely make it worse.
Give yourself a rest if you’re feeling pain.
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- You do not need to do all of the warm-ups every time you run. Pick and choose the ones that help you feel ready to go. Before a short, low-intensity run, you can warm up simply by walking for a few minutes.
- Stop immediately if you feel pain while stretching. You should not feel anything beyond a short twinge. If stretching caused serious pain, cancel your run.
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In 2009, I received a phone call that changed my life. My father called to tell me that my 16-year-old brother had been in an accident and that he had passed away. I was 19 years old and going into my sophomore year of college; I found myself living my own personal nightmare. I stopped taking care of myself and six months later, I didn’t recognize the woman I saw when I looked in the mirror. I had gained over 75 pounds, my clothes stopped fitting, and I felt like I had lost control of my life. The weight gain was gradual but it felt like it happened overnight.
I was consumed by grief and insecurities about my weight. I was angry, lashing out, and I started pushing my friends and family away, so my mom stepped in. She told me that I deserved to be happy and that if I wanted to make a change, she would help me make it happen. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I’d let myself get to that point. I knew I needed help but I didn’t know where to start. So I accepted the help and decided to get my life back.
There’s no secret to weight loss. There’s no secret pill or magic exercise that will make you lose weight quickly. It just comes down to what you eat and how often you get active. I re-did my diet and ate proper portion sizes of lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains for an entire year. I dragged myself to the gym to torture myself on a machine at least 5 days a week. It wasn’t fun but a year later, I lost the weight I’d gained after my brother passed away.
Recently I received a notification on Facebook that I’d been tagged in a photo. I clicked the notification and found a picture of myself that I never knew existed. When I started gaining weight, I deleted every photo of myself because I was ashamed of the way I looked. I was convinced that people would judge me for my weight and I did everything I could to erase that part of my life. This picture was taken maybe a month after my brother passed away. While it’s not a photo of me at my heaviest, it’s a picture that I would have reached out and asked my friend to delete. Today I look at it and feel grateful that it exists.
Looking back, I wholeheartedly regret my decision to attempt to erase that time in my life. I regret spending so much time and energy caring about what others thought about my weight and I primarily regret feeling ashamed of the way I looked.
When I look at this picture, I feel a lot of things but surprisingly, embarrassed isn’t one of them. This is me at a time in my life when I was doing everything I could to simply get out of bed. I was trying to survive the unimaginable, sudden and tragic loss of my younger brother.
My issue with ‘Before and After’ photos is that they place the before photos in a context that implies that it’s unacceptable to look like what we look like in our after photos. Newsflash: Even after I lost the weight, my life didn’t magically change. I was still incredibly unhappy because I hadn’t found the one thing that helped me feel proud and empowered by my body, running.
Running helps me work towards something more motivating and rewarding than a goal weight. I don’t have the stereotypical runner’s body I was convinced I was going to acquire when I decided to run my first marathon. My thighs touch, I have love handles and I have stretch marks. My body looks nothing like the women I see in many brand’s Instagram feeds, but I can run fast AF so I feel nothing but beautiful in my US size 8/10 frame. Running taught me that it’s not about looking a certain way, it’s about feeling a certain way. STRONG.
If you want to make a change, start running, or adopt a healthier lifestyle, go for it! I’ll be the first to stand beside you and cheer you on. But if you love the way you look and feel, then keep doing what you’re doing because you’re already living your best life. If there’s one thing running has taught me, it’s the importance of patience, persistence, and perseverance.
This isn’t a “before” and “after” picture. It’s simply me in two different stages in my life. Neither is more “beautiful” or “better” than the other, they are both simply me.
An article in Skeletal Radiology, a well-respected journal, created something of a sensation in Europe last year. It reported that researchers from Danube Hospital in Austria examined the knees of marathon runners using M.R.I. imaging, before and after the 1997 Vienna marathon. Ten years later, they scanned the same runners’ knees again. The results were striking. “No major new internal damage in the knee joints of marathon runners was found after a 10-year interval,” the researchers reported. Only one of the participants had a knee that was truly a mess, and he’d quit running before the 1997 marathon (but had been included in that study anyway). His 1997 knee M.R.I. revealed cartilage lesions, swelling and other abnormalities. In the years that followed, the knee became worse, showing augmented tissue damage and more serious lesions. His exam prompted the researchers to wonder whether he would have been better off persisting as a runner, because, as they speculate, “continuous exercise is protective, rather than destructive,” to knees.
Video Increasing Knee Stability
Athletic trainers Gene Schafer and Jason D’Amelio demonstrate four exercises that can help provide stability to the knee joint.
By Michele Monteleone on Publish Date August 11, 2009.
You can’t be a runner past the age of 40, as I am, without hearing that running will ruin your knees, by which doomsayers usually mean that we’ll develop “degeneration of the cartilage in the kneecap, which reduces its shock-absorbing capacity,” says Ross Tucker, a physiologist in South Africa and co-author of the new book “The Runner’s Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer and Faster.” In other words, we’ll be afflicted with arthritis.
It’s not an unreasonable supposition; other sports have been linked with early-onset arthritis in knees. In a British study, almost half of the middle-aged, formerly elite soccer players were found to have crippling, bone-on-bone arthritis in at least one knee. Former weight lifters also have a high incidence of the condition, as do retired N.F.L. players.
But despite entrenched mythology to the contrary, runners don’t seem prone to degenerating knees. An important 2008 study, this one from Stanford University, followed middle-aged, longtime distance runners (not necessarily marathoners) for nearly 20 years, beginning in 1984, when most were in their 50s or 60s. At that time, 6.7 percent of the runners had creaky, mildly arthritic knees, while none of an age-matched control group did. After 20 years, however, the runners’ knees were healthier; only 20 percent showed arthritic changes, versus 32 percent of the control group’s knees. Barely 2 percent of the runners’ knees were severely arthritic, while almost 10 percent of the control group’s were. “We were quite surprised,” says Eliza Chakravarty, an assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “Our hypothesis going in had been that runners, because of the repetitive pounding, would develop more frequent and more severe arthritis.”
Instead, recent evidence suggests that running may actually shield somewhat against arthritis, in part because the knee develops a kind of motion groove. A group of engineers and doctors at Stanford published a study in the February issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery that showed that by moving and loading your knee joint, as you do when walking or running, you “condition” your cartilage to the load. It grows accustomed to those particular movements. You can run for miles, decades, a lifetime, without harming it. But if this exquisite balance is disturbed, usually by an injury, the loading mechanisms shift, the moving parts of the knee are no longer in their accustomed alignment and a “degenerative pathway” seems to open. The cartilage, like an unbalanced tire, wears away. Pain, tissue disintegration and, eventually, arthritis can follow.
So, the best way to ensure that your knees aren’t hurt by running is not to hurt them in the first place. “The biggest predictor of injury is previous injury,” Tucker says, and one of the best deterrents against a first (or subsequent) knee injury is targeted strength training. “The hip stabilizers, quads, hamstrings and core must all be strong enough. As soon as there is weakness, some other muscle or joint must take over, and that’s when injuries happen.”
If you’ve injured your knee in the past, particularly if you’ve ever torn an A.C.L. (an injury that, in the Stanford gait study, was closely associated with misalignment and cartilage degeneration), talk to your physician before running. But for most runners, the scientific observations of Chakravarty will ring true. “What struck me,” she says, “is that the runners we studied were still running, well into their 70s and 80s.” They weren’t running far, she says. They weren’t running frequently. They averaged perhaps 90 minutes a week. “But they were still running.”
Harriet Jenkins is watching an old video of herself from seven years ago. She’s filmed standing on a stage, wearing a little black dress and pearls, with her blonde hair swept glamorously back.
Her name is called and she clasps her hand to her mouth in disbelief as the crowd bursts into applause.
It might have been the Oscars, given her reaction — and she looks every inch the star. At that moment she was. Harriet, a teacher from Southampton, had become a celebrity of the dieting world: Slimming World’s Woman of the Year.
Harriet, who’s 5 ft 8 in, once weighed 26 st, but she lost 15 st in 15 months, going from size 30 to a size ten.
Harriet Jenkins (pictured), a teacher from Southampton, was once a celebrity of the dieting world: Slimming World’s Woman of the Year. Harriet, who’s 5 ft 8 in, once weighed 26 st, but she lost 15 st in 15 months, going from size 30 to a size ten
Seven years after losing the weight, it’s a different story. Just weeks after the competition, her weight began creeping back up and today Harriet is not a size 10
Seven years later, it’s a different story. Just weeks after the competition, her weight began creeping back up and today, while she doesn’t reveal her weight, she’s clearly as far away from a size ten as she was before the competition.
Harriet is one of several ‘Super Slimmers’ in a new Channel 4 documentary exploring why weight loss is so difficult to maintain.
These slimmers won some of the dieting world’s largest weight- loss competitions, but most of those featured have regained much of the weight.
Around 40 per cent of people who achieve extreme weight loss — up to 20 st — put it all, or more, back on, experts say. And it’s not just extreme slimmers: each year 30 million of us try to lose weight, and 10 per cent put it back on within three years.
Harriet Jenkins (right), pictured with a friend before she dropped 10 dress sizes through healthy eating and exercise
Sick of comments about how big she was, Harriet joined Slimming World with a friend. ‘Losing weight felt good,’ she says. ‘And when something feels good, you want to keep on doing it.
‘I did want to be slimmer of the week and slimmer of the month. It brought out my competitiveness. I’d waited — and wanted — for years to look like that.’
After 15 months on the diet plan, she did. But just weeks after she’d been made a Slimming World ambassador, Harriet started to pile the weight back on — ‘at about the same rate that I lost it — a stone a month,’ she says.
‘I’m pretty sure I put it back on because I was eating too much.’ Another super slimmer whose weight loss quickly reversed after the photo-calls is Jane Hall.
Jane Hall (pictured left, before losing the weight and right, after) from Lancaster was crowned Rosemary Conley’s slimmer of the year in 2012 after losing 8 st over two years
Since losing the weight Jane has put five stone back on. ‘When I lost all the weight, I was convinced I wouldn’t dare go out and see anyone if I put weight back on. But it happens so quickly,’ she says
The 59-year-old from Lancaster was crowned Rosemary Conley’s slimmer of the year in 2012 after losing 8 st over two years.
‘When you lose weight in a big competition, you begin to feel famous,’ she says. ‘You’re in the local magazine, national papers, on the radio and TV. I was in one of The Hairy Bikers’ programmes and they came round to my house for lunch.
‘The year after I won was great. I loved it. It took me an hour to get round the supermarket because everyone wanted to talk to me and tell me how great I looked and how I was inspiring them to lose weight.’
Since then, Jane has put 5 st back on. ‘When I lost all the weight, I was convinced I wouldn’t dare go out and see anyone if I put weight back on. But it happens so quickly,’ she says.
That year, Leroy Wilson, 50, a DJ from Basingstoke, Hampshire, was also being hailed as a weight loss champion after losing 17 st in seven months (he’s 6ft 4in) – and going on to lose another 3 stone.
He had been so overweight doctors told him he could have a heart attack if he didn’t lose weight.
Leroy Wilson (left, before his original weight loss), lost 17st in just seven months after being told he could suffer a heart attack
Leroy Wilson (pictured), went on to lose another 3st – being hailed as a weight loss champion
But Leroy, who is 6ft 4in — who only three years ago appeared on the front of LighterLife magazine, suave and slim in a black suit — now weighs 23st
‘I used to have one little mantra: do it or die,’ he says.
And it worked. Weight loss felt like a new lease of life. ‘I could run up and down stairs. I could play squash for two hours. I was skating and playing ice-hockey, it was unbelievable,’ he says.
‘I went to the funeral of a friend who’d been as big as me and died because he didn’t do anything about it, and I thought: ‘That could have been me.’ ‘
But Leroy — who three years ago appeared on the front of LighterLife magazine, suave and slim in a black suit — now weighs 23 st.
This is partly because he has a blood disorder and is taking steroids, but also because he’s ‘lost focus’.
‘When I lost weight, I became a celebrity, of sorts. I got loads of letters from strangers telling me how inspiring I was, and more interest from women.
‘But there’s also something weird about being thin when you used to be obese. And the attention made me insecure.’
This might be what partly lies at the root of weight regain: how the slimmer perceives their weight loss.
As Jane Ogden, a professor of psychology at the University of Surrey, explains: ‘When people lose vast amounts of weight, they often experience a sense of rebirth.
When Leroy lost weight, he had turned into a celebrity of sorts. He got lots of letters from strangers telling him how inspiring he was
‘Huge increases in self-confidence and well-being are reinforced by positive comments from other people.
‘But their body esteem doesn’t always keep up with their change in shape and sometimes they still have an image of themselves as being overweight.
‘Sometimes weight gain is caused by not liking the new, thinner self, which can be a challenge to their identity and relationships.’
It can occur as a gradual slipping back into old habits. ‘This can be caused by emotional eating or work or social eating,’ she says.
‘It can also occur as a rebound effect after months of denying themselves food and building up a preoccupation with what they weren’t allowed to eat.
‘When weight loss is maintained, this is often the result of a process of reinvention when people can reinvent themselves as a new thinner, healthier person.’
There is also the problem that extreme weight loss is almost impossible to maintain, says Traci Mann, professor of health psychology at the University of Minnesota.
‘Very few people know diets don’t work in the long run.
‘Their body is physically changing because of dieting, your metabolism and hormone levels change, so you feel hungrier, but can eat less.
‘Because people don’t know those things, they blame themselves when the weight comes back on. Regaining it is a predictable consequence of losing it.’
The reason is partly evolutionary, says Dr Thomas Barber, an endocrinologist at University Hospital, Coventry.
‘One of the biggest threats to a species’ survival was starvation,’ he says.
‘Any loss of fat would have typically occurred during a famine, so it makes sense during those circumstances to conserve energy and lay down more fat to mitigate the harmful effects of starvation.
‘It does this by enhancing appetite and seeking food to replenish depleted fat stores, largely through a hormone called leptin (the satiety hormone).’
But when we put on weight, too much leptin is produced, causing overeating. Something called ‘persistent metabolic adaptation’ is also to blame.
When we lose weight our metabolism slows down, says Dr Barber, meaning we have to eat less not to put on weight.
‘That might make people think: ‘What’s the point in dieting if I’m just going to regain the weight?’ But a small minority of people can maintain it,’ says Dr Barber.
One is Daniel Wheeler, 31, from Staines, Surrey, who appeared on the cover of Men’s Health magazine in 2012 having dropped from 22 st (he’s 6 ft 4 in) to 14 st.
Daniel Wheeler (pictured) from Staines, Surrey, appeared on the cover of Men’s Health in 2012 after having dropped from 22 st (he’s 6 ft 4 in) to 14 st
‘Every diet made me lose weight, but they were unsustainable long-term because they were too restrictive,’ he says.
Instead he became ‘obsessed’ with health and fitness and managed to lose 8 st in two years through strenuous exercise and avoiding processed food.
Having left his marketing job to become a personal trainer, he’s made exercise his life.
This is common with the 10 per cent of people who manage to avoid putting weight back on, says Professor Mann.
‘They tend to exercise at least an hour a day, every day. They make keeping the weight off the most important thing in their life.’
So, is there any point dieting if we’re only going to put the weight back on? The fact that diets ‘don’t work’ should not be taken as bad news, says Professor Mann.
‘It’s a liberating message as it can free you from being on the horrible cycle, where you diet, lose weight, regain weight and diet again.’
Instead of regaining his weight, Daniel Wheeler (pictured) became ‘obsessed’ with health and fitness and managed to lose 8 st in two years through strenuous exercise
The focus needs to be on something sustainable long-term, says Dr Kevin Hall, who is a senior investigator in the physiology department at the National Institutes of Health in Washington.
In other words, it’s what we’re always told: eat sensibly and healthily, and exercise.
‘You have to think about lifestyle changes that ensure you get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of life while still being healthy.’
And you have to live like this for ever, he says.
Leroy is resolute that he will slim down again. ‘I know I can lose weight again. Being as big as I was is just something I can’t imagine any more.’
A LighterLife spokesperson said: ‘Our research shows those who follow our weight loss plan and continue with our weight maintenance plan keep weight off.’
Rosemary Conley agreed, but added: ‘We all know life can prevent us from being as disciplined as we’d like.’ Slimming World declined to comment.
Super Slimmers: Did They Really Keep The Weight Off? Channel 4, February 14, 8pm.