In the latest issue of Running Times magazine coach Jay Johnson from Boulder, CO explained how he has his athletes do a lunge based warm-up and a fairly comprehensive cool-down that targets the hips. I've followed coach Johnson for a few years, read some of the same research, and learned from other leaders in the field. And here's the consensus: You must be an athlete first and a runner second.
We enjoy running because it's simple and easy to fit into our lives. Just throw on your shoes and you're good to go. There's a catch, though. In order to continue to run, you have to do things other than run and all too often we neglect the other stuff.
Runners tend to have mental or perceived barriers when it comes to the extra stuff. Those same runners end up hurt more often. Don't be one of those.
I've referred to the law of repetitive motion in the past to explain why it's so easy to get injured by running.
How exactly does running embody the law of repetitive motion?
Your risk for injury goes WAY up if you participate in an activity where you perform a lot of repetitions (strides in our case) that involve a lot of force (yep, 2.4-2.6 times our bodyweight per stride) while using a limited range of motion (most running is slow) and not allowing for enough recovery (aren't runners notorious for this?).
It's easy to see that nearly every variable in the law of repetitive motion can be abused by someone who simply wants to get in shape by our simple, convenient sport.
One thing that I take away from this is that it is imperative that we move our bodies in multiple directions with big range of motion regularly. Running lots of slow miles, like when you're preparing for a marathon, is just asking for trouble. For example, regularly including yoga in your routine would counterbalance this formula nicely.
Whether due to a perceived lack of time or interest, maybe you aren't “there” at this point. (Although if you keep me in your circle you will be!) Maybe it's just too much to ask of you to start a regular yoga practice. I hear ya.
I'd like to share coach Johnson's lunge warm-up with you as I think, for the small investment in time, it will provide a big return. If you don't do anything but run, I beg you to consider (at a minimum) adding in this simple 3 minute warm up.
Give it a try and let me know how you feel during your runs. If you've never done anything like this before, you may be sore for a few days but it should subside and never happen again. Be sure to concentrate on your form above all else – do not worry about completing 'X' number of repetitions. Quality over quantity, people!