Baby boomer Scott Forrester of La Grande,Oregon, doesn’t just run; he teaches others how to run right. What that means is, according to Scott, be prepared before you take that first step, beginning with The Ideal Warm-Up for Older Runners.
If you are a baby boomer who still runs for exercise, have you ever thought that the warm-up you used to do is not what you need now?
Many studies have shown that static stretching is not particularly helpful in preparing for physical activity or in preventing injuries. The term “stretching” implies that you’re forcefully lengthening a muscle beyond its normalstate. It is entirely possible for someone using this method to overstretch and injure themselves and tear tissue. I know this from personal experience when trying to stretch into the splits for a martial arts class many years ago.
There is a better approach. Rather than stretching, I’ll use the term “functional lengthening.”
To function well in running, we need to have the ability and range of motion throughout the body required to coordinate running movements. The modern lifestyle includes lots of sitting in chairs, and over the years it robs us of some of this movement ability. That’s because sitting tends to shorten and compress us.
The conventional approach is to “stretch” or pull on isolated body parts, such as the calves or hamstrings. But running involves much more than isolated body parts. Running is truly a whole body activity. It is better for older runners to lay aside the idea of forceful stretching and cultivate better movement.
Here is a quick example of an integrated whole body movement:
Stand and lift your right hand gently in the direction of the ceiling. Reach up for an imaginary object overhead. But instead of reaching higher by exerting effort through the arm, begin to lengthen the entire right side of yourself by using your breath to expand the ribs on the right side. Use your awareness to track the expansion of the right side with each in-breath, in succession from the right waist, to the right lower ribs, the right upper ribs. Also follow the movement of shortening on the other side as you reach upward on the right side. Do this gently, and notice the restored length on the right side. Then, repeat on the left side.
One of the most effective things you can do as a real dynamic warm-up is to use the walk-run method. If you are going to be running with people who don’t start out slowly, leave time to walk a couple of minutes and run a few seconds, going back and forth between walking and running until your joints, muscles, and tendons feel ready to go. If you are running by yourself, this is an excellent way to start the run itself. In longer events, or when starting a running program, use this method as it fits what you are doing.
Don’t forget the value of a morning hot shower before a long run. Run strong, forever, and have fun!