The #1 Thing Runners Should Do When Stuck at Stoplights
Because all city dwellers have wondered this at some point.
Sometimes city running is ideal: The energy is high, the views are good, there are pit (read: bathroom) stops just about everywhere. Other times, it drives us crazy. Traffic lights, anyone?
Here's the thing: Every runner who's ever met a red light has either (a) awkwardly jogged in place, (b) stopped to wonder if you really should be stopping, or (c) started to stretch just because ... why not? (Psst...Don't fall for these 8 Common Running Myths.)
But what should you actually be doing with those precious minutes before the light changes to optimize your run?
"By all means jog in place," says Michele Olson, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery in Montgomery, AL. You might look silly, but this keeps your heart rate elevated and oxygen-rich blood moving to your legs and core. Once that light turns green, your body is primed to keep moving, she explains.
Even better: "You burn about eight calories a minute jogging in place. So, if you keep moving, you'll keep the calories burning and cardio effort going," she says. (Yaaas!)
As for stretching? If you're battling a little injury, it's okay. A brief stretch to surrounding muscles helps alleviate stress to the area, says Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., a running coach with Running Strong. Examples: "Nagging shin pain? Stretch your calves. Knee problems? Stretch quads and or hamstrings," she suggests.
Just keep stretches gentle and brief-and if you're 100 percent healthy, hold them till you're totally done. "Research shows that stretching before you are done actually lessens the ability to generate leg power, which can change your gait and make you more prone to incurring an injury," says Olson.
The bottom line: Even though you may look more sane standing on the street corner checking your playlist, try not to stop moving completely if you hit a light. If you do, you'll have to rev your heart and muscle activity back up into the cardio zone, says Olson. Plus, if you've been on the move for a while, a sudden pause can put you at risk for blood pooling in your legs, which may make you feel a little lightheaded, says Hamilton.
And hey, we'll take mastering our best jog-in-place-form over feeling lightheaded mid-run any day.