What a great question!

Now more than ever I want to stress a few things that you should all be keeping in mind while you are on this running journey toward your first 5K. Things that have worked well for me as well as for my athletes. I make it a point to only suggest things that I have personally tried.

Before you step out the door or step onto the Boulevard you should always take a few minutes to engage your body in some dynamic warm-up stretches and movements. Dynamic stretches are stretches that are performed in a fluid motion and while holding the stretch for no more than 2-3 seconds. Any longer and the muscle being targeted begins to relax and that can be counterproductive to the run. I also say movements because these are not all stretches.

We will continue to demonstrate these stretches and movements at our group runs, but I also want you to be able to refer to this while you are running on your own. Dynamic warm-ups are the first step toward preventing injuries. I want you to not only get to your first 5K fit and ready, I want you to get there injury-free!!

Note: in any stretch, only go as far as you need to feel a little bit of tension in the muscle. Too much tension prompts the muscle to contract (flex) and the stretch becomes ineffective.

Here is what you should do before you run (in no particular order):

1. Spine/Trunk Twists
Target area(s): spine, shoulders & obliques
These can be performed either with straight arms or with arms bent at the elbows. The palms can also be facing up or down, it doesn’t really matter. The key is to rotate as far as you can in either direction without putting too much tension in your lower back. Perform 10-15 twists in each direction.

2. Arm Circles
Target area(s): shoulders
Try to keep your arms as vertical as possible during the rotations and create big, smooth circles. Start by rotating your arms forward and then backwards. You can rotate one arm at a time or for a little more of a challenge, try to have them both going at the same time! Perform 10-15 rotations per arm per direction.

3. Knee Tucks
Target area(s): hips & glutes
With one leg firmly planted on the ground and flexed, use your arms to tuck the knee of your opposite leg up and toward your chest. This opens up your hips and stretches the three major gluteal muscles while engaging your hamstrings, calves, ankles and the muscles around your shins. It also requires a little bit of balance so keep working on it! You can do these standing in place or walking. Perform 10 knee tucks per leg.

4. Standing Quad Stretch
Target area(s): quadriceps, knees & hip flexors
You can reach back and grab your heel with either one or both arms, whatever allows you to balance yourself while performing this stretch. Keep your knees in the same plane while kicking your hip out to fully engage your hip flexor and quad muscles. Perform 10 stretches per leg.

5. Hamstring Stretch
Target area(s): hamstring
Keep your front leg straight and your back leg bent, in order to get the deepest stretch possible. Perform 10 stretches per leg.

6. Leg-over-Leg Stretch
Target area(s): Iliotibial (IT) band & hamstring
You should always bend over and go as far down as possible before rotating toward your back leg. This will ensure that you are getting the deepest stretch possible. Perform 10 stretches per leg.
(1:50 to 2:25 of the video - can you believe this is the only video demonstration I could find?!)

7. Forward Lunge Pulses
Target area(s): quads, glutes, shin muscles, ankles, hip and hip flexors
This is one of the most common running stretch positions and for a good reason. It targets quite a few areas and it also generates some body warmth because it requires a little more strength and coordination. For this stretch you should remain in the forward lunge position, with your front leg at a 90-degree angle or your knee just slightly in front of your ankle (but not in front of your toes!). Then pulse down by lowering yourself until your back knee is just above the ground, and then back up to your starting position. Perform 10 pulses per leg.

8. Side Lunge Pulses
Target area(s): quads, glutes, shin muscles, ankles, hip and hip flexors
This is the sister stretch to the forward lunge. Or is it the brother? Either way it complements the forward lunge very well. For this stretch, start with a wide leg stance and then bend each leg (or take a step sideways) while lowering yourself as if you are about to sit on a stool behind you. Work back up to straight legs and perform the same movement on the other side. Perform 10 pulses per leg.

If you perform all of these glorious dynamic stretches and movements before each run you’ll be well on your way to a happy and injury-free running experience. After all, that’s what it’s all about, right?

Run better, run smarter and see you all this week!

Coach Mwangi