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  • Writer's pictureAlexa

Why the warm up?

Updated: Jun 18, 2018

I’m often asked about warm ups; what should they include, do I have to do one, what are the benefits etc? This is the blog post to answer those questions!

There are lots of reasons to carry out a good warm up before a run;

- gradually raising the heart and breathing rate is safer than suddenly going into a hard run

- increasing the temperature of the muscles, warm muscles perform better and have a lower injury risk

- increasing the production of synovial fluid, the lubrication in your joints, to protect joints better as you tun

- to activate the right muscles and practice the movement patterns for running so that you run with good form

I encourage all my runners to follow a warm up. The more intense/fast the run the longer the warm up should be, to gradually build you from cold and stationary to functioning at the speeds you want to for your session. So for a long easy pace run the warm up can be shorter, perhaps just a few minutes of slower running to start with.

So here are a few ideas to work through for a great warm up;

- start with 3-4 minutes of easy, conversational pace, running at around 40% effort

- hip or arm circles to improve the range of motion in the hips and shoulders

stick person drawing of hip circles

- do some low skips, ideally picking a point 20-30 meters away and skipping to there, then back to easy running

- run with high knees again for 20-30 meters then easy running

- run with heels flicking up to your buttocks for 20-30 meters, then easy running

stick person drawing of high knees and heel flicks

- try some side skips (like you see footballers doing in pre-match warm up) leading with one leg then the other, then normal easy running

stick person drawing of side skips

- try hopscotch!

- walking lunges, again for 20-30 meters then easy running

- high skipping with lots of bounce and arm drive, then easy running

- if you are doing a faster paced run then build up the speed of your running with a few 20-30 meter sections at 70% effort/tempo pace, again alternating with easy pace running

What’s the logic behind this suggestion? The skips help muscle activation and balance - running is, after all, standing on one leg at speed and the hop in the skip practices that. Hopscotch works wonders for this too, as well as working on agility and coordination. High knees and heel flicks help activate key running muscles in the legs and glutes, as well as acting like a dynamic stretch for other leg muscles. This is similar with lunges, although these are testing a bit of strength and balance too. Improving the range of motion at the shoulders and hips improves backward drive of your limbs and performance. Side skips work on your balance and the muscles that stabilise your legs and pelvis when you run. Finishing with higher effort blasts helps prep your body and raise your heart and breathing rate gradually for a speedier session or run.

You can also include a bit of more specific strength work as part of a warm up for more gentle, shorter runs. I often talk to people about doing a quick 5-10 minutes strength workout before you head out the door, ticking the strength box, warming you up and activating key running muscles. What exercises to do here is a topic for another post.

One final piece of advice, it was thought a few years ago that static stretching was good to do as part of a warm up (which is where you hold stretches for a few seconds). This has now been dis-proven, static stretching with cold muscles can risk injury and reduce performance, save this type of stretching for after your run.

As always if you have any questions about anything covered here just drop me an email or a message on social media!

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