Warming up is probably every athletes weakest area, which can result in a lot of injuries. To decipher what deems a Warm Up ‘proper’ is to split it up into 3 key elements – regardless of what sport you do – which are: Pulse raiser, stretching, sports specific. For running, it is very easy to apply, yet often over looked.
First, lets discuss why we should warm up before a workout. And I do mean Workout, you do not have to warm up for easy runs or long runs as they are not too intense. You need to warm up for anything from a run a tempo pace, to intervals on the track to races: the activities where you have to push your body rather hard. A Warm Up makes sure your blood is flowing to the necessary muscle groups, whilst loosening your legs and even dissipating lactic acid from previous workouts. Most of all, however, they allow you to mentally prepare for the workout ahead, allowing you to think and plan it out in your head before jumping it out – in the long run keeping your repetitions even and correctly paced.
1 – Pulse raiser. This step is fairly straight forward, you want to raise your heart rate higher than resting, getting the blood pumping fast enough ready for you to tackle the intense work. For runners, one or two miles very easy can achieve this before a session.
2 – Stretches. Everybody knows that stretching before and after workouts is important, but where most people go wrong is the TYPE of stretching they do. Before a workout – after your pulse raiser – your stretches should be DYNAMIC not STATIC, meaning your stretches should contain movement. I will do another post about the correct dynamic stretches shortly, but they should include a lot of running form specific movements. The static stretches should be done after the workout. Think about it, if you do a pulse raiser, then do static stretches, staying still is going to lower your heart rate again, defeating the purpose of the main bulk of the warm up. Stretches further alleviate any tightness/stiffness within the body, whilst increasing flexibility for the workout ahead.
3 – Sports specific. The clue is in the name, the third and final part of your warm up should be geared towards the actual activity you are going to be participating in. For runners there is only one way to do this – strides! You have to learn to love your pre workout strides if you want to stay injury free. What I mean by ‘strides’ is a relaxed sprint (60-70%) effort, for about 80m, focusing on form, keeping your back straight and head held high. The purpose of these are to get your body used to the fast pace and correct form before jumping into the workout itself. A often overlooked benefit of strides is that you can detect any injury problems or tightness before doing the workout, allowing you to either skip or alter the workout to help aid your recovery and stop it from getting worse.
I hope this helped, comment with any questions I will be willing to answer. Up coming posts on dynamic stretches, the importance of core for runners and the importance of different shoes for each workout.