Rolling out of bed (without hitting snooze!) for an early morning run takes some serious willpower, but the next hurdle to jump before hitting the pavement is the muscle tightness and stiffness.
"When you're sleeping, your muscles are largely inactive. Blood flow to muscles responds to demand, so when your muscles are resting, there is a reduction in circulation — your muscles are cooled down and they stiffen up," Chelsea Long, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist at HSS Sports Rehabilitation and Performance, explained.
Long likened it to clay or silly putty that has been sitting out, but gets more pliable when you start warming it up in your hands.
Joint stiffness and tightness is also common come morning because, as Long explained, fluid in the joint has settled "like oil in a parked car."
Your solution? A thoughtful warmup, which Long said literally warms up the tissues and prepares them for a run.
"By increasing your body temperature and blood flow through simple, safe activation movements that also increase range of motion and 'wake up' the muscle belly, you are priming the fascia (protective casing around the muscles), the ligaments of your joints, and the joint itself," Long said.
Before a morning workout, Long suggested dynamic stretching and/or a foam-rolling routine to reduce the chances of muscle pulls, strains, or tears.
"A dynamic stretching or foam rolling routine will give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to preparedness for exercise," Long said.
"Think about your early morning adventures running through your town or city: wet sidewalks and streets, delivery vehicles coming in and out driveways, uneven pavement, icy conditions in the Winter, and the sun that blinds you when you make that one turn — all these aspects can be a surprise to you and possibly dangerous."
To protect itself, your body needs to be able to respond efficiently and with great speeds — think leaping out of the way, cutting sideways, and varying your speed and stride.
"These are all circumstances where a primed muscle can work more efficiently. While running, even in the first mile while you're building a base, your muscles need to be able to contract and lengthen at fast speeds, in sequence, absorbing forces and producing power."
Long also added that a muscle that isn't warmed up or primed also has a greater risk of injury. So, after lacing up your sneakers, make time for a warmup and try these simple routines and tips, courtesy of Long, ahead.
(Remember: if stiffness doesn't go away or gets worse upon exercising, speak with your doctor before starting a running program.)