Lucie Bond, Central Health Physiotherapy, demonstrating runningWhy warm up?

Warming up in the correct way prepares the body for the demands of the event, training or workout. It does this by a) working the body into ranges of movement that are required to run b) working on the coordination required for running and promoting good running form and c) by waking up the energy systems required for the workout.

How do you warm up?

You can often see people ‘warming up’ on the side of the road before a run and using a selection of calf or hamstring muscle and quadriceps muscle stretches. Static stretching before a run is actually not recommended as it can increase the chance of a muscle strain during a run. This is based on the evidence that if you stretch and lengthen a muscle excessively, it temporarily increases its tolerance to pain and stops the muscle from being able to control its amount of elongation. This means you may be affecting the control and timing of force generation in that muscle! Evidence also suggests that static stretching pre-running has a negative influence on strength, power and speed. The only time pre-run static stretching should take place is if the individual’s running biomechanics are significantly altered or inhibited by a shortened muscle group. Short muscle groups have been shown to either increase the risk of injury or decrease an athlete’s efficiency. You should only do static stretches pre-running on the advice of a Physiotherapist or similarly trained movement specialist.

An ideal way to warm up is to start with a slow progressive jog for 10-15 mins, then bring in some functional ballistic stretches (using momentum). Examples of this are a runner’s lunge, downward dog (a common yoga exercise) or continuous ankle pumps. When combined, these are an excellent way to get the appropriate amount of hip and ankle movement in preparation for running.

Running drills such as the ‘ABCD’s’ of running (initially developed for sprinters) can be used as a warm-up for longer running distances. ABCD’s break down the running cycle into 4 parts, with both a skip and a run version for each part. These should be done in order of lowest impact up to the highest impact (A skip, A run, D skip, D run, C skip, C run, B skip, B run). By training the brain to activate the right muscles in the right sequence required for running, these drills help improve strength, and assist in improving an individual’s running technique. They are also a good way of reducing lower-body stiffness. Please see below link for the ABCD’s and sequence.

To take that preparation one step closer to race time, you may wish to add some increasing acceleration over about 25-30 meters, building up to just faster than your usual running speed. Finish with 1-2 50-100 meters longer accelerations. Then you’re all set to go and smash your run!

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Katriona Ryan

Katriona Ryan Bsc (Hons), MCSP, AACP is a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist with Central Health Physiotherapy who specialises in the Management and Rehabilitation of Spinal and Peripheral Neuro-Musculoskeletal Disorders, Sports Injury Management and Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Post-Operative Management and Rehabilitation. In her spare time she is a keen netball player and runner.


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