It pains me to go to a road race and watch some people warm up. It usually involves some light stretching, maybe 5 minutes of jogging a swig of water or gatorade, and then they stand around chatting till the race starts. Sounds perfect right? No, no it does not.
I understand that over the years, road races have become somewhat of a social sport, and that a serious runner is becoming harder and harder to find as the days go by, but your warmup not just before races, but also before training runs is one of the most important parts of your run.
Why, you might ask?
Well take a 10k for example. Lets say you drive 30 minutes or so to get to the race, do a 5 minute jog, stretch, and then toe the line. A five minute jog is roughly the equivalent of .5 miles. A 10k is 6.2 miles. Now if you can explain to me how those 5 minutes of running, and at most 10 minutes of stretching has prepared your body for the pain your about to put it through, please let me know.
If you have been training properly, you have been running 30+ mile weeks for this race at an absolute minimum. There is no possible way that your body can adjust from being stagnant to race ready in 15 minutes.
What can you do about it?
Try something that is going to warm up your muscles, get your heart-rate up, and simulate a race environment. This not only tells your body to prepare itself for pain, but it also changes your mindset, focusing you on the task at hand. Lets call it like it is, a Dynamic Warm-up.
A proper Dynamic Warm-up consists of 5 things.
1. Short 800m (half-mile) jog.
2. Yes, some stretching
3. Drills (I’ll get into these in a moment)
4. More running.
5. Strides (depending on the type of run)
Seems like a lot right? Well it’s not as much as you think.
1. 800m jog
This is to just initially prep your muscles for the rest of the warm-up, gets some blood flowing, starts the production of lactic acid.
Remember how I said that 5-10 minutes of stretching is worthless? Well now is the point to throw some of that in. Do what your comfortable with, stretch what feels to tight, and don’t force anything.
3. Drills involve a series of maneuvers that go as follows:
High Knees (somewhat self-explanatory)
A-Skip (see video)
Backwards Run (self explanatory)
Side to side (see video)
Karaoke (see video)
High Knee Butt-Kick
B-Skip (see video)
These drills are somewhat difficult to master, but they develop fast twitch muscles, that over time improve running mechanics and efficiency
Here are the videos for the drills, I searched for a good example, and this seems to be the best. She does a great job explaining the proper form. I understand these are hurdle mobility drills as well, but for our purposes, these drills help with distance runners as well.
4. More Running
Warm yet? You should be. After drills you should shoot for at least 12-15 minutes of light running, and if you want to, slowly increase the pace towards the finish. Almost there! When warming up for an easy run, or distance day, you can skip this part.
Ever see people take off sprinting from the start line before the race starts? Well the start of a race is usually the fastest, and what they are doing is preparing their legs for what is about to happen. Usually you do a stride for about 50-100 meters for shorter races, and up to 200m for longer races. You should get out hard, sometimes even harder than you might go in the race. Jog back and go again. Usually 4 hard strides before a race has me ready to go. Do these before races and hard workouts, and usually a couple times after easy runs to keep your legs quick, and improve body mechanics.
How often should I warm-up like this?
Definitely before every hard workout and race, and at least three times a week before easy runs. These will be difficult at first, but like I said. Down the road, as your body acclimates to this type of warm-up it will feel more natural and fluid.
There you have it! It may seem long, but when you get on that start line after a dynamic warmup like that, you feel ready to go. After a couple races, you won’t want to warm up any differently.