Warming up and cooling down

Warming up, stretching and cooling down

When planning a running or other exercise session, we are all often culprits of concentrating solely on the specific training portion and neglecting our warm-up and cool-down sessions. But like it or not, your training sessions should always begin with warming up and stretching the body, and conclude with a cool-down.

Here are our tips for what to do in your running and other exercise sessions when training for the Vitality London 10,000.

Warming up

Deep down everyone knows they should warm up before they run, but this vital aspect of our training is often given just a brief thought and then skipped. 'I'm short of time' or 'I'm already quite warm' are frequent affirmations we mutter to ourselves as we launch straight into our training. But dropping cold into an intensive session could not only inhibit what you actually get from your training, but could also put you at real risk of injury.

The aim of a warm-up is to prepare your body physically and mentally for the training ahead. And we are really not talking about long sessions here, so the 'lack of time' excuse is a poor one. A typical example of an adequate warm-up would be to start by gently mobilising the major joints of the body, then continue by walking for 60 to 90 seconds, building up the pace every 10 seconds or so. When you start to get warm, you can then break into a gentle jog for half a mile, before stopping and going on to your stretching routine.


Although your stretches should include all your major muscle groups, you don't need to embark on an extensive flexibility session when you're training. Instead, find a suitable place to stop when you're out running, and then begin by stretching the legs and back. After this, focus on the smaller muscle groups. Your muscles should always be stretched slowly and the stretches held for at least 10 to 15 seconds. And remember: absolutely no bouncing is allowed (or recommended). Bouncing is a common mistake, and doing it can pull or tear the muscle you're trying to ease.

Cooling down

Cooling down is just as important as warming up and stretching. Once your running distance is complete, you should not come to a complete stop immediately, as this encourages the muscles to contract too quickly and could cause an injury. They should instead be eased down and stretched out gently. Correct form once your run is finished is to drop your speed down to a jog for 30 to 60 seconds before slowing down to a brisk walk, reducing the speed every 10 seconds or so.

Finally, end your cool-down with a stretching session of all the major muscle groups before you get cold – but this time, stretches should be held for around 15 to 20 seconds. Longer stretches allow muscle tension to fall and the muscles can be stretched further when they have been in use – but remember, no bouncing!

Warming up, stretching and cooling down are essential components of your Vitality London 10,000 training – so do not neglect them. By just taking a few minutes to effectively prepare your body for exercise and allowing it cool down appropriately, you will get the best from your training as well as minimise your risk of injury.