Pre-Run Warmup (STRONGLY RECOMMEND):
Dynamic movements that activate key muscle groups and utilize a moderate range of motion
Hydrate and fuel up
Pre-Run Warmup (OPTIONAL):
Cold exposure in the morning
Add small amount of sodium bicarbonate to water 45 minutes before hard run
Great! If you're still with me, chances are you want to know why to do these work and how much of each you should do. Well, keep reading! First of all, no one wants to waste time doing something that isn't effective, right? And second, everyone wants to keep their workout as short as possible. We've all got lives outside of running after all. So, let's dive in.
Foam Rolling is a great way to prepare your muscles for a workout, as well as cooldown after a workout. It's easy to do and not too time consuming. Win win! Research supports foam rolling and hand held percussion therapy (a.k.a. Theragun) as a way to increase range of motion (a component of flexibility) and decrease muscle soreness when used after a workout. In contrast to static stretching, there is no negative side effect of decreased muscle power output.
Dynamic movements that use full range of motion help prevent injury and prepare your body for the workout that's about to ensue. Notice I didn't say ballistic stretching... which some of you might remember from the 80's. Ballistic stretching is a form of stretching commonly done before workouts that involves using momentum or muscle contraction to quickly stretch a muscle. Leg swings sounding familiar? This type of stretching can be incredibly detrimental to your workout and result in either muscle injury or at its best it won't do anything.
Dynamic movements on the other hand are slow, controlled, deliberate movements that take your joint through a moderate range of motion. Slow high knees, slow butt kicks, walking heel to toe's and standing hip rotations are good examples of dynamic movements to do prior to running. These are especially important to do as we get older because our flexibility and muscle elasticity decreases as we age. Doing just 10 minutes of an active warm up can help decrease muscle soreness. Pretty cool!
Hydrate and Fuel Up
As a physical therapist, my expertise lies in muscles, bones, and nerves, BUT as a competitive runner with a fickle stomach, I know a thing or two about eating before running. The timing and exactly what to eat before running come down to personal preference, but generally you should try to eat 1-2 hours before a run with an emphasis on carbohydrates (e.g. toast with jam, banana, crackers and peanut butter). If you prefer to eat 3-4 hours ahead, you can add more fats and proteins to your meal. Make sure to hydrate throughout the day and don't forget those electrolytes!
Cold Exposure In The Morning
Wait! Don't close your tab! Hear me out... I know this suggestion may seem crazy, but there's some good evidence behind this one. There are a few key benefits that cold exposure seems to provide that runners and non-runners alike can expect: 1) increases in brown fat - a type of fat that increases core body temperature/metabolism, 2) positive effects on mental health, and 3) improved focus.
The jury is still out on whether cold water immersion after exercise is beneficial (spoiler alert- it looks like its okay after endurance training but not after strength training), but when it comes to preparing for a run, feel free to start your day off with a 5-10 minute cold shower.
WARNING! DIGESTIVE DISTRESS ASSOCIATED WITH SODIUM BICARBONATE! If you have a fickle stomach like me, you may not want to try this one. At the very least, proceed with caution.
Adding just 1/2 a table spoon of sodium bicarbonate (in normal people language- baking soda) to your water about 45 minutes before a workout can help delay the effects of lactic acid during a workout. This is a pretty complex concept to explain and my physiology is a bit rusty, but I'll do my best to summarize. When you exercise strenuously, you will inevitably get an increase in lactic acid. This lactic acid decreases your blood's pH which can limit how much work you do in a given workout. By digesting sodium bicarbonate before your workout, your blood pH starts at a higher level and theoretically you'll be able to do more before your blood pH hits a level you can't work through. Pretty cool right?!
As I alluded to above, static stretching can decrease muscle power output. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend stretching before exercising. Give your foam roller or Theragun the attention it deserves instead.
If you have any questions, comments (unrelated to your experiences with baking soda haha),or other topics you're interested in, contact me on the "Contact Me" page of the Limitless Running website. Have a great run!