A grade school memory of mine is from the required track & field day.
I decided to run in one of the shorter sprinting races, probably the 100m, of which I have no actual recollection of.
However I do recall deciding to not warm up for the event..at all. Why would I want to run and waste energy, before having to race?
I came in last.
Most athletes fail to warm up properly.
A proper warm up will benefit any runner for just about any distance.
This winter, while doing more indoor running, I've gotten the chance to observe the warm up of many people. Most often, they simply do the classic quad stretch where they grab their shoe and bring it up to their butt, they might stretch their calves, and touch their toes. Maybe walk for a couple minutes, and then go right into the run, where the first part is run much faster than the rest of the workout.
Frankly, that's the worst way to prepare for a run.
There are 3 components of a warm up. These include easy jogging, drill work, and race effort strides. It's a great idea to start with a simple lunge matrix. Next move into 5-15 minutes of easy jogging. Within this jogging incorporate some drills such as high knee, karaoke, skipping, bounding, butt kicks, and whatever other drills you favor. To prepare your legs for the high intensity of the upcoming race, do a few 30-60 second strides as well as a longer acceleration closer to race pace.
These drills are also a great way to practice good running technique. Do them mindfully and with purpose! Avoid mindlessly going through the motions, focus on your body and what it's doing. In fact, this association is helpful while running as well. They also help to neuromuscularly prepare the body for the upcoming effort.
A proper warm up not only prepares the body, but also the mind. For a race or track workout, it helps get you excited and starts the adrenaline pumping, getting you mentally ready.
If short on time, at least do the lunge matrix. If you can, going through a full warm up will not only benefit the run itself, but the drills act as very running specific strength training.
Again, a nice routine to get into before harder runs is: 1) Lunge Matrix 2) 15-25 minutes of easy running with 3-5 x 100-200m strides mixed in. 3) Drills and strides, either after the easy running or incorporated into it.
For a little research, check out this study from New Zealand. The researchers found that a more intense warm up resulted in greater running economy and increased peak running speed. So, don't be afraid to go a bit harder during the warm up. Just, know when to stop too!
Secondly, the warm up has been shown to result in a more effective method of reducing delayed onset muscle soreness than the cool down! Researchers found that a warm up reduced soreness rating 48 hours post workout, while the cool down had no apparent effect!
Update 8.24.16: Another update with a study for you! This one looked at a warm-up routine specifically designed to prevent knee pain. The researchers found that over 14 weeks with 1500 military recruits those that practiced this specific warm-up routine has a 75% reduction in anterior knee pain compared to those who performed the general standard warm-up routine.
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