The Great Debate – I would guess that whether to stretch before or after a workout or to be sure to warm-up or cool-down is something that runners, physiologists, doctors and the like have been debating since the beginning of organized running. There is such a varied belief, I estimate that if 20 runners were asked, at least 10, if not more, different philosophies on the topic would be given. So where does that leave us with our Wellness Program and Couch to 5K?

Since we are new (or newly back) to walking, jogging and/or running we are going to take the approach that we want to ensure our muscles, joints, heart and lungs are warmed up and ready to go before each of our workout sessions and to make sure we cool-down as well. We are going to focus on “dynamic stretching” to do this for us. Dynamic stretching, uses controlled leg movements to improve range of motion, loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow which helps you run more efficiently. Dynamic stretching is most effective when it’s sport-specific. This pre-run routine targets the muscles used for running.

For our program, both the Warm Up and Cool Down will rarely take longer than 5 minutes each.

Warming Up – The goal: Get the blood flowing to our heart, lungs, muscles, joints, etc to warm them up and get them ready for exercise.

First, simply walk leisurely for 1 minute.

With the following dynamic stretches, start slowly, focusing on form. Use small movements for the first few reps, and increase the range of motion as you go.  Complete them in the order presented here.

LEG LIFTS
Swing one leg out to the side, then swing it back across your body in front of your other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side. Feel wobbly? Hold onto a steady object.

BUTT-KICKS
While standing tall, walk forward with an exaggerated backswing so that your heels come up to your glutes. Do 10 reps on each side.

PIKE STRETCH
Get in a “pike” position (hips in the air). Put your right foot behind your left ankle. With your legs straight, press the heel of the left foot down. Release. Repeat 10 times on each side.

HACKY-SACK
Lift your left leg up, bending the knee so it points out. Try to tap the inside of your left foot with your right hand without bending forward. Repeat 10 times on each side.

TOY SOLDIER
Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes. Do 10 reps on each side.

WALKING LUNGES
Use extra caution with this movement. Stay in control and only do as much as you can. As you progress in your fitness, this will become easier.

Step forward using a long stride, keeping the front knee over or just behind your toes. Lower your body by dropping your back knee toward the ground. Maintain an upright posture and keep your abdominal muscles tight.

Cooling Down – The goal: To allow our heart rate to return back to normal and to allow our muscles and joints to relax a bit before we go back to our day.

The cool down session is going to be easy to remember, simply just leisurely walk for approximately 5 minutes after your workout session.  That’s it. Head on to the rest of your day!

The dynamic stretching routine is provided by RunnersWord.com. For more information go to: http://www.runnersworld.com/stretching/dynamic-routine?cm_mmc=Mag_URL-_-2010_March-_-dynamicstretching-_-Dynamic_Stretching_Article