Warming up for runners

We all warm up, but why? What are we aiming to achieve? And what’s the best way to go about it? Do I stretch and if so should it be static, do I need to complete a whole load of complex movements that seriously test my co-ordination? Over the years the warm up has developed and evolved from a few stretches and a jog for 2-3 mins before competing, but has it evolved for the better and is everyone preparing in the most effective way? The reasons we are all warming up and why we should be warming up are: 

1. Mental readiness 

2. Physical readiness 

3. Injury prevention 

4. Improved performance 

So, we know what we want to achieve but how can we go about it; a warm up should ideally last 10-30 mins depending on the amount of time you have available and should follow the RAMP principle (Raise, Activate, Mobilise and Potentiate). 

Raise

 

The aim of this is to begin to prepare the body for exercise, so we want to start to increase heart rate, increase body temperature, increase breathing rate, increase blood flow and increase joint movement. 

 

From a running perspective, this could include: 

* Running technique drills (A-skips, B-skips, high knee running, heel to bum, bounding, strides) 

 

Activate and mobilise 

Muscle activation and mobilisation can be achieved with the same exercises so grouped into one section; as the name suggests through this section we will aim to activate the large muscle groups we will use and mobilise the joints. 

* Resistance band crab walks 

* Sumo squats 

* Lunges (forward/reverse) 

* Single leg squats 

* Inch worms 

* Press ups 

* Squats 

* Spinal roll downs 

* Bridges (single or double leg) 

The above are just a handful of suggestions that will activate the muscles used in running and increase joint mobility by increasing synovial fluid in the joints, making movement easier and smoother. During this phase you could also introduce any prehabiliation or rehabilitation exercises that you have been utilising. 

Potentiate

 

As we now come towards the end of the warm up we are aiming to be even more specific with the exercises, this section should be focused on the key movements of the sport we are about to undertake. The key being the intensity should also begin to increase to the level of intensity of exercise for which we have been preparing the body. 

So for a middle or long distance runner the key part of this portion of the warm up would be to practise the start as this is likely to include a burst of speed, and then settle into normal running pace. 

For a sprinter it may consist of short sprints followed by some longer rolling sprints over a 40 m distance. 

 

 

Static stretching 

Now some of may be wondering why there is no mention of static stretching as part of this warm up, as its likely it has been a large component of your warm up since you were at primary school. More recent literature suggests that static stretching may adversely affect performance by reducing force production, power output, speed, reaction time and strength endurance. 

 

So, there you go, some structure to your warm up, time spent on each area is going to vary depending on the time you have available and each section can be tweaked to fit in with the exercise or sport you will perform. Just remember that a bit of structure and a steady increase in movements can not only have a beneficial effect on performance but also injury management.