Close your eyes, and imagine: The rhythmic sound of your sneakers slapping the pavement, the world blurring by as you artfully navigate your course, your body pushing itself to run further and faster to establish your new PR. Once you’ve visualized what success looks like to you, it’s time to make it happen.
Getting race ready requires that your body is prepared to operate at its peak performance. South County Physical Therapy, Inc. (SCPT) recommends an active warm-up, also referred to as dynamic stretching, which is an ideal way to ready your body to perform at its best.
It’s important to note there are significant differences between static stretching and dynamic stretching.
- Static stretching, which is more traditional, involves pulling and holding muscles while standing still. It may increase flexibility; however, it can also negatively impact running economy and your muscle function.
- Dynamic stretching, which is performed while the body is in motion, gradually warms up and triggers key muscle groups to mimic the motion needed, to benefit your full-out performance.
The key takeaway: Static stretching can result in slower times and can predispose your body to injury. Dynamic stretching improves performance with greater benefit and helps prevent injuries. (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/dynamic-stretching-better-before-training-and-racing#; http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/stretching/dynamic-stretching-versus-static-stretching.html; http://www.runnersworld.com/ask-the-sports-doc/should-i-stretch-before-my-runs)
Through dynamic stretching, the neurological system is stimulated to activate your muscles to be ready to perform. This active warm up trains the muscles you’ll need to fire appropriately once you’re fully engaged in activity. (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/dynamic-stretching-better-before-training-and-racing#)
The key to dynamic stretching is to challenge your joints and muscles repetitively, driving them to engage more with each push. By actively warming up prior to activity, your body is prepared for the movements it will perform, over and over again, effectively reducing the risk of overuse injuries. (http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/injury-prevention/dynamic-stretching-vs-static-stretching_54248)
There are several dynamic stretches that can benefit your performance. It’s important to find the ones that make the most impact for you and your body. By including quick-paced movements, jumps, kicks, and leg swings, dynamic stretches can truly prepare you to push yourself to the max. (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/dynamic-stretching-better-before-training-and-racing#)
SCPT recommends a few simple dynamic stretches to start your active warm up:
- Butt Kicks: Bend your knee and bring your heel back to your butt with each step as you run. Keep steps short and quick, and focus on the frequency of the butt kicks, instead of your running pace. Use your arms to drive yourself forward with each step, for at least 150 feet. (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/dynamic-stretching-better-before-training-and-racing#)
- High Knees: Run on the balls of your feet, and bring your knees up as high as possible with each step as you run. Just like with butt kicks, try to increase frequency rather than pace, and aim for short, quick steps. As each knee comes up, drive your opposite arm forward, for at least 150 feet. (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/dynamic-stretching-better-before-training-and-racing#)
- Leg swings: Stand sideways next to a wall, and swing your outside leg forward and back, increasing the height each time. Start slowly flexing and bending your foot; as you build your range of motion, pick up your pace as well. (http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/injury-prevention/dynamic-stretching-vs-static-stretching_54248)
Once you’re actively warmed up, you’re ready to take on your next challenge, pushing with each stride to surpass your previous best.
As you look ahead to race season, SCPT is here to help you to meet your goals with smart training strategies and injury prevention techniques. Contact SCPT today for a free movement screen, and pick up the pace to achieve the progress you seek. For more information, call SCPT at 508.832.2628.