3.6 miles today, 40 minutes
Today I re-learned a lesson I seem to have to learn time and time again...the importance of the warm-up. I am kind of an impatient person when it comes to my runs. I begin calculating as soon as my work-out starts, and I sometimes want to get to jogging before I am properly warmed up. In my last post I described the pains that went along with not properly warming up. Today I eased into my work-out with walking, some easy jogging and a bit of stretching between. Once I felt properly warmed up nothing could stop me. I experienced no pain at all! Perhaps that was the fix, perhaps it was just a good day. Whatever it was, I thought a short discussion on warming up and cooling down might be helpful.
Properly warming up your muscles dilates your blood vessels, allowing proper oxygenation, which facilitates proper metabolism. In short, your muscles just work better. (http://running.about.com/od/howtorun/ht/warmup.htm)
In addition, properly warming up helps to lubricate your joints by warming up the synovial fluid in them. Joints like knees, ankles and hips really need this because proper lubrication of the joints helps with decreasing possibility of injury and improves longevity. Since runners are notorious for having these joint injuries, anything you can do to improve performance and care is essential!
Lastly, tendons have poor vascularization, meaning they have very few blood vessels (veins and arteries) which supply them. Have you ever had a tendon or ligament injury? Have you noticed how much longer it takes for it to heal versus say, pulling a muscle (which is extremely vascularized). By warming up, you increase blood flow to tendons and ligaments and you simply warm them up. This is kind of like stretching a warm rubber band versus a cold one. It will stretch much better when warm.
Warming up can be simply walking, skipping, doing some high-knees, butt-kicks, stretches and calf-raises.
A cool down is a great time to rehydrate, get your heart rate and respirations under control and stretch while you are still warm. In addition, your body has produced waste material during your workout due to aerobic metabolism in the cells. Typically this is lactic acid. By walking about 400M or the equivalent of one lap on the track post-run, you help your muscles work this lactic acid out of the cells where the bloodstream can carry it away. If left to sit in the cells lactic acid increases inflammation in the muscles which causes soreness. So walk that extra lap, stretch and properly cool down and you will be a little less sore the next day!