Warm Ups Matter!
In preparation for the upcoming marathon season we are launching a series of blogs dedicated to various aspects of running so that if you are putting the finishing touches to your preparation, or you have just been inspired to take on running after cheering a friend, you can be sure to head in the right direction.
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Let’s start at the very beginning…
What do you do before running?
How do you warm up?
The most common issue I see in runners is the complete lack of warm up; it’s a common misconception that running is ‘easy and natural’ so just starting to run at an easier pace is enough to warm up. Nobody sensible would go to the gym and put their max weight on a bar and start with that, so why don’t we apply the same principles for running?
Running in reality is a really stressful activity with forces of around 2.5 of your bodyweight going through your body at each step. Not having a proper training plan, not giving enough attention to warming up and cooling down properly, and not addressing strength and mobility issues, makes it much easier to get injured.
Alongside the ‘easy activity’ misconception, one of the most common excuses is that running training is already extremely time consuming so spending an additional 10minutes before and after a long run, looks like wasted time, but it is important to remember that running performance has 2 components, aerobic capacity and neuromuscular control – and most people forget about the second one.
Aerobic capacity has various components itself which most training program target correctly by mixing speed work, long runs, intervals etc. You need mileage to improve your aerobic capacity, you need to keep running.
However, neuromuscular control does not necessarily improve with running, it can actually get worse with poor technique and training through niggles that change the gait pattern, setting you up for injury. Focused practice is what’s needed to improve your brain-to-muscle connection and this is where a proper warm up is essential. Also if you look at your warm up this way, you’ll see that it’s not a waste of time, but an essential part of your training, helping you to improve your running efficiency, delay fatigue and stay injury-free.
Your warm up should be around 10min long; it should be specific to your needs and weaknesses, but in general a proper warm up should aim to:
- Get your blood flowing and your cardiovascular system ready for the run – start with walking pace exercises, slowly ramping up to your running pace.
- Warm up soft tissues – especially around your calves and feet activate your stabilising muscles.
- Prime your nervous system – encouraging the brain to communicate and activate more muscle fibres, improve timing so that your stride can be more efficient.
- Don’t overstretch or over-mobilise as you want to keep some tension in the muscles to be reactive to the force of hitting the ground, your muscles need to act like a spring.
A simple routine you can try:
Walking on your toes, heels, outside, inside of your feet, 10m each:
- Knee to Chest Walk, 10m
- Figure 4 Walk, 10m
- Walking Lunge to Knee Raise + Reverse Lunge Walk, 10m each way
- Side to Side Lunges 10reps
- Toes Touches, 10m
Bounding-specific drills to improve your running mechanics.
Start with 10sec on the spot, then add a slight lean forward and move for 10m:
- Butt Kicks
- 1 Knee Pick Ups
- High Knees
- Arm Swings – 20sec picking up the pace
- 3x Running 20m at fast pace with 5m acceleration/deceleration
Questions? In need of some more help with niggles or to better structure your recovery?