If you are a keen runner then you have probably tried many different training techniques to improve your race day performance, but have you ever thought about how your warm up can improve performance?
There has recently been a shift in focus, with more and more runners starting to see the benefits that dynamic, pre-run warm ups can bring.
So, whether you are a sprint runner, marathon runner, or love a charity 5K, read on for a closer look at what a full body warm up could do for your personal best!
Why Do We Warm Up?
To Avoid Injuries
Most people think that runners and athletes warm up before races and runs in order to avoid injury – and they are not wrong. Muscles that are warm are more flexible and supple, therefore they are less likely to pull, tear or snap when put under duress.
What is more, warm muscles move more freely due to their flexibility, and therefore athletes do not hold themselves back or put unnecessary strain on other areas of their bodies in order to compensate for stiffness and resistance.
In this way, warm ups prevent both first hand and secondary injuries from occurring.
To Aid Recovery
Another well known reason for warming up is that it helps to speed up next day recovery. If runners race or train with cold muscles, their bodies tend to produce far more lactic acid and can go into shock afterwards.
The day after your marathon will be a lot more achy and uncomfortable if you didn’t warm up than if you did.
The speed at which you recover from a training session will dictate how soon you feel able to go into another one, and therefore warming up can help you to maximize your training potential as well.
To Improve Physical Performance
A lesser known benefit of warming up pre-race, is that it can actively improve your overall performance in terms of technique, speed and stamina. This is because warm muscles are much better at transporting blood around the body, and of course blood contains oxygen.
When your muscles are properly warmed up before a race, they can keep a healthy supply of oxygenated blood flowing around the entire body, which prevents fatigue from setting in as soon and therefore allows you to run faster for longer.
What is more, those lovely, supple muscles have a far greater range of motion than stiff, cold muscles and therefore move with greater efficiency and accuracy, improving technique.
To Build Mental Focus
And finally, the mental focus that a full body warm up provides can be the difference between beating your personal best and falling short of it by miles.
Running, like so many sports, is about mental fitness and agility as much as physical, and a good warm up will prepare you for this as well.
What Do We Mean By Full Body Dynamic Pre-Run Warm Up?
It is a pretty lengthy title, but every part of the full body dynamic pre-run warm up is crucial if you want to maximize your performance. So, let’s break it down into its component parts:
Most people associate running with the legs, but running actually involves the entire body from head to toes. Just think about how important arm swing, neck position, shoulder relaxation, pelvic position and even eye line can be.
This is why it is so important to perform a FULL BODY warm up that activates and engages every part of your physique.
For runners who are really serious, awakening and stretching the facial muscles can be a game changer, because the more stiffness and discomfort you can dispel before a race, the less distractions and obstacles you will be faced with during it, allowing you to focus entirely on reaching that finish line.
A dynamic warm up is a warm up that involves moving the body rather than holding still poses and stretches. Forcing cold muscles into deep and stationary stretches can actually cause more harm than good and will not get blood flowing around the body effectively.
Dynamic movements not only help to encourage blood flow and oil joints, but also encourage mental energy and help to ease nerves. As your body will be in motion during your run, it makes perfect sense that it should be in motion during your warm up too.
The timing of your warm up is also crucial because during your warm up the body will increase in temperature by 1-2 degrees, but it only takes around 20 minutes for that temperature to fall back by 40%.
This means that if you cease warming up more than 20 minutes before your race, most of the benefits will be lost.
Instead, it is important to time your pre-run warm up to align closely with the start of the race so that you are mentally and physically prepped and primed when the start gun fires.
Where Should You Perform Your Pre-Run Warm Up?
There really are no rules as to where you should perform your pre-run warm up, but it is helpful to find a clear space that is not far from the start line so that you do not cool down before the race begins.
This is a common mistake that runners make when they decide to warm up at home and then drive to the location of their run or race – if the drive takes longer than 20 minutes the warm up is null and void.
You do not need a large amount of space to perform most of the dynamic movements in a pre-run warm up, however it is really helpful to be able to try a few short, sharp sprints to end your warm up (more on this later) and for this you may require a flat length of road or track.
The most important thing is to find a place where you can put your headphones in and forget about external distractions for a moment.
Turning your mental focus inwards and concentrating on your breathing, your individual body parts and your own positive affirmations will really pay off once that start gun goes.
Step-By-Step Guide To Performance Enhancing Pre-Run Warm Up
Step 1. Light Jog
Start your full body warm up with a light jog that does not exceed a very gentle pace or intensity. If you push too hard or hurry this first step, you will injure your body and inhibit your performance. Keep your limbs and joints loose and relaxed and use the jog to slightly raise the heart rate and get blood pumping around the body. A 5-10 minute timespan will be sufficient to prepare the muscles and joints for step 2 of your warm up.
Step 2. Muscle Activation And Mobility Exercises
Now it is time for 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic exercises that involve twisting, flexing, contracting and articulating the body in order to loosen the muscles and joints.
Special attention should be paid to the hips, knees and ankles because they take so much of the strain during a run, however no body part should be ignored because running is a whole body activity.
Start from the ground and work your way up incrementally, and remember to keep shifting your weight and breathing as you perform the following movements:
- Press through your feet with 8 heel to toe foot rolls
- Rotate your ankles in both directions with 8 ankle rolls
- Roll your knees in unison with 8 clockwise and anticlockwise circles
- Rotate your hips in every increasing circles 8 each way
- Follow with 8 figure-of-eight hip swings in each direction
- Perform 8 dynamic leg swings keeping a bent knee on the supporting and active leg
- Perform 8 waist twists keeping a wide stance with bent knees
- Next rotate the rips in shallow circles 8 times in each direction
- Reach the arms above the head and step foot to foot reaching for the sky to activate the lower ribs
- Drop forward, keeping your knees bent and then roll up through the spine 4 times
- Swing the arms in opposition to shoulder height 8 times
- Swing each arm individually in full circles 4 times each way
- Lift the arms and bend sideways into a full windmill fold 2 times each side
- Raise the shoulders as high as they will go then drop them 8 times
- Roll the shoulders forwards 4 times then backwards 4 times
- Gently rotate the head and neck (without letting it drop backwards) 4 times in each direction
- Tilt the ear to the shoulder and nuzzle like a cat on each side
- Open your mouth, nostrils and eyes as wide as you can, then scrunch them as tightly as you can 4 times.
Step 3. Short Sprint/Running Drill
It is a good idea to bounce up and down and shake out your wrists and elbows after you have finished your mobility exercises, then you are ready to try a few running drills.
This involves running at pace for 10-15 seconds in order to prepare your body for what is ahead, activating adrenaline production and cardiovascular activity so that your body is not shocked when the race begins.
You should do 2 or 3 drills max so that you do not tire your body to the detriment of your actual race performance.
Step 4. Positive Affirmations
And finally, repeating positive affirmations either aloud or in your head can really help to instill self-belief, determination and focus in your mind.
An affirmation is usually no more than a sentence long, and the rhythm created by the repetition of these words actually has a calming and centering effect that can enhance your running performance enormously.
So, there you have it, the step-by-step guide to developing your full body dynamic pre-run warm up that will actively improve your running performance.
You can combine the exercises mentioned above, and add your own to make it suit your personal body type and specific needs, but remember to keep it active and mobile, involve every part of the body, and perform it close to the start time.
Why not give it a try before your next run and see if your pace and technique are positively affected?