Warming up is well known as the best thing to do before activity but what does it actually do, and is it something that your missing to get the most out of your parkrun?

In this blog, we will look at the basics of a good warm up, the effects the body experiences as it prepares for exercise, differences between types of stretches and some recommendations for you to add into your warm ups before your parkrun.

Running or jogging are both forms of aerobic exercises and as such present the body with quite a number of amazing health benefits. As discussed in an article by Sports Fitness Adviser.

Parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. It is no wonder they are becoming increasingly more popular, but are you warming up effectively?

There are 3 main components to an effective warm up:
1. General light to moderate heart raising activities (running/jogging, cycling, skipping etc.)
2. Stretching
3. Sport specific activities

The idea of an effective warm up is to gradually increase the tempo/speed so that by the end you are ready for activity. An ideal warm up should aim to last about 10 minutes and incorporate all 3 components.

The Benefits of an Effective Warm Up

  • Decreased resistance of muscles and joints
  • Greater release of oxygen from haemoglobin and myoglobin
  • Increased rate of metabolic reactions
  • Improved nerve conduction rate
  • Efficient thermoregulatory strain
  • Blood flow to muscles
  • Elevation of baseline oxygen consumption
  • Psychological effects and increased preparedness

As the temperature of the muscles increase the muscles themselves become more pliable, (think warming up rubber to allow it to bend), this helps reduce the risk of injury as the muscles are able to adapt to load and stress put on them due to the increased pliability.

The increased temperature allows the blood to carry more oxygen around the body, which allows muscles to work more efficiently. As the body temperature increases it has also been suggested that muscles have a better glycogen breakdown meaning that high intensity activities are more efficient and less likely to cause injury.

A warm body allows for nerves to conduct signals quicker which again helps reduce the likelihood of injury as the body can respond quicker to changes (increased reaction time).

Some of the non-temperature related changes include increased blood flow to the muscles due to the rise in heart rate, but most importantly the body psychologically feels prepared for activity.

The combination of all these effects allows your body to feel more prepared as well as allowing it to adapt to load/stress and demands better.

Stretching: What should you do?

A static stretch is a stretch that is slow and held for a length of time to increase the range of motion you can achieve. (This is the type most people have been taught to do before and after exercise.)
A dynamic stretch, this is a more functional type of stretch where a controlled movement allows the body to apply a short term stretch to achieve a more balance orientated range of movement.

Each type of stretch has its advantages and disadvantages depending on what you aim to achieve. At Summit dynamic stretches are used more frequently to complement a warm up routine. There aim is to promote stability control through movement therefore helping reduce the likelihood of injury. Dynamic stretches are stretches performed while moving.

Below are some examples of dynamic stretches that could be used as part of your warm up routine.

Hamstring sweeps

Whilst walking forwards stop and have one foot in front of the other
With both feet planted on the ground, bend the back leg
Bend forwards and with your arms sweep behind the feet and forwards feeling a stretch through the back of your leg
Take a couple of steps forwards and repeat on the other side

Groin stretch (open gate)

Whilst walking forwards stop and bring one knee up to chest
With your hands on your hips, rotate leg out to your side
When out as far as you can go, place foot down, take a couple of steps forward and repeat on the other side

Heel flicks

As part of a slow jog forwards kick heel towards your bum
You should feel a small stretch in the front of your leg repeat on both sides


Above are some examples of lower body dynamic stretches that can be incorporated into your warm up routine and will get you ready before your park run. Complete these exercises along with a heart raising activity first (fast walk – slow jog) and some general activity specific movements after for an effective warm up prior to your parkrun.

For more information on the benefits of a warm up and for a tailored routine specific to parkrun contact us on 0800 731 2738 or Book Online.

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Bishop, D., 2003. Warm up I. Sports medicine, 33(6), pp.439-454.
Fradkin, A.J., Zazryn, T.R. and Smoliga, J.M., 2010. Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(1), pp.140-148.

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