Thursday, September 17, 2009

Whole-Body Warm-Up Addendum

This comes from a previously-referenced article that appeared in Running Times earlier this year:
Warm Up Aggressively

While watching Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky warm up before the 2008 indoor national 3,000m championship, I kept checking my watch. Didn't these guys know their race wasn't for another hour? So what was with all the drills and calisthenics and jogging and stretching? That evening, they finished first and second, and my eyes were opened anew to what warming up really means.

Mind you, this is coming from someone whose friends have often chided him for insisting on getting to races at least an hour before the start. But, like most non-elites, my usual pre-race warm-up has historically consisted of 20 or so minutes of jogging, some perfunctory stretching, and a few striders soon before the start "to get my legs used to turning over." Anything more would be just wasting precious energy needed in the race, right?

Watching Matt and Chris that evening reminded me of a discussion I'd had the previous month with coaching legend Jack Daniels. He said that the usual pre-race short sprints do little but prepare runners to start really fast. He recommends a few minutes' run at about threshold pace, ending five to 10 minutes before the start, as the last hard part of a warm-up. Doing so, he says, gets you just cognizant enough of fatigue that you won't want to go out too hard. It also produces the phenomenon most of us have noticed of the second repeat in a workout being far more comfortable than the first.

Thinking about that conversation while watching Matt, Chris and others (Jen Rhines, Shannon Rowbury, Sara Hall) warm up aggressively made me realize how ineffectual most people's warm-ups are. They're better than nothing, of course, but don't get our respiratory, muscular and metabolic systems ready to operate at a high level right from the gun. A few months later at the Olympic track trials, I again took note of how extensively, comprehensively and ambitiously nearly all the distance runners warmed up. In subsequent discussions, I've been told by many elites that they do roughly the same warm-up before their hard workouts.


. . . experiment - first in workouts - with a more energetic warm-up. Finish your warm-up jog significantly faster than you started it. Do a full stretching routine and a full set of striders. Before longer repeats, do a couple 200s or 400s at your goal pace for the workout. Once you're confident you've found the routine that works for you, start using it at races. There, do a comfortably hard run of a few minutes, finishing 10 minutes before the start.
The only part I would be loath to suggest is the "full stretching routine" prior to a workout or race. Save that for afterward, when moving into recovery mode.

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