If you enjoy going for a run or taking a brisk walk, you might wonder what types of exercises you should do before you get started. There are various warm-up drills and stretches you can do to prepare for your walking or running exercise. Warming up properly will not only improve your performance during a run or walk, but it will also help you avoid injury.
Benefits of Warming Up
Jumping into a workout with stiff muscles will affect your workout, so taking five to 10 minutes to warm up can potentially save you a lot of inconvenience in the future. Gradually warming up your muscles before you begin increases your blood flow, makes your muscles more limber, and increases agility and flexibility. The warm-up is a rehearsal for your actual workout and will make you more prepared for your workout at whichever intensity you choose.
If you are preparing for a race, jogging for 15 minutes can loosen your leg muscles and prepare you for the movements you will be using at a higher level of intensity during the race. Two other drills that can prepare you for your workout are running backwards and butt kicks. When you run backwards, swing your arms while you lift one of your heels up toward your butt, extend backwards, and lower your foot. Then continue this movement, alternating legs, for 30 seconds. Butt kicks are similar to jogging, except that you kick your heels all the way back toward your butt. Do this for 30 seconds while increasing your speed.
The main muscles used while running and walking are your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Stretching out these muscles before your workout can make you more limber and protect you from injury. To stretch out your hamstrings, lie flat on your back near the outer corner of a wall. Lift your left leg straight into the air and rest your heel on the wall. Then straighten your right leg until you feel a stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch legs. For your quadriceps, stand up straight with one hand on a wall or something else to help you keep balance. Then lift your left heel up toward your butt and pull your foot with your left hand until you feel a stretch. After 30 seconds, switch legs. To stretch your calf muscles, stand with a wall an arm’s length away from you, and place your hands on the wall. Then step back with your left leg and slowly bend your right knee until you feel the stretch in your left calf. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Don't bounce while stretching or overstretch your muscles. Your muscles should be warmed up from at least five minutes of moderate activity before you stretch, so you may want to stretch after your workout. Stretching should never cause pain, so if you experience any pain while stretching stop immediately.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.