A warm up is a time period for your body to adjust from rest to exercise. This gradually increases your body temperature, respiration rate, heart rate, and increases the oxygen supply to your muscles. The most appropriate types of warm up relate to the activity you are going to engage in.
Most sports and exercise science experts agree that a warm up is necessary; however, they do not agree on all the specifics or the benefits. If you are going to be running for your main workout, then you should walk briskly or run at a slower pace as a part of your warm up. This is generally agreed upon.
Prior to strength training you may include lifting light weights as a warm up for heavier weight lifting. Before a treadmill workout, try some other low or no impact warm up, such as a few minutes on the ellipitical. Slow walking is a great warm up prior to brisk walk.
The research regarding stretching following a cardiorespiratory warm up is conflicting. Some research indicates that static stretching may reduce the susceptibility of injury to muscles and joints. Especially for master level runners (those over 40) stretching may improve your range of motion, and combat loss of elasticity. Other researchers contend that there are no benefits to stretching before your run and it may actually decrease your muscular strength and endurance.
So what’s a novice to do? Engaging in a cardiorespiratory warm up is a must. Following that you may choose to do a few minutes of static stretching, or you may opt for a more dynamic warm up.
Some common dynamic warm ups for running include skipping (yes, I said skipping), running with high knees, walking lunges, jumping jacks, squats to jump, and so on.
The level of warm up needs to be appropriate for the intended effort. The longer the run, whether for a workout or race, the shorter the warm up. For everyday runs, especially if you've just rolled out of bed, it's cold out, or you're achy, you’ll want to run about ½ mile, longer if still tight.
A speed workout or a shorter, quicker race, like a 5k, would involve a longer, more thorough warm up time. The effort never should be so tiring that it wears you out before the starting line. Walking, jogging, and some dynamic drills make for a good warm up prior to speed work.
Do take the time and effort to warm up your cardiorespiratory system prior to running. As for deciding what experts to listen to regarding stretching; listen to your body. Learn what it’s telling you and you will figure out if you need to do some dynamic drills or static stretching.