How Much Warm-up is Too Much?

Warm-Up

I have been running for four years now and I have yet to find the perfect pre-run routine.  I have tried all kinds of combinations of stretches, as well as warm-up runs of varying speeds and distances.  Before my 5k race last weekend, I could not help but smile, as I saw people stretching and warming-up for up to an hour before the start of the race.  From yoga routines to people hopping on one leg, leg lifts, butt kicks, lunges, and sprints, I saw it all.  I got so tired from just watching them that I decided not to stretch or warm-up at all!

Which inevitably leads to the question:

How much warm-up is too much?

According to an article by Dr. William Roberts,

Stretching does not prevent injury or improve performance. However, warm up activities do prevent injury and improve performance, so time is best spent warming up the muscles rather than stretching before activity.

It turns out that static stretches, where a muscle is held in a fixed position for an extended amount of time is detrimental and can actually increase the risk of injury.  On the other hand, dynamic stretches, which focus on the legs’ range of motion can help us run more efficiently.

The length of the race also influences the need for a warm-up.  For longer runs, a warm-up is not necessary since you can incorporate it right into the run.  You also want to avoid burning up too much energy before a long race, where you will need all your reserves to finish.  A warmup becomes more important before shorter runs since there may not be sufficient time to gradually speed up to race pace.

Temperature is yet another factor that will influence how much time is spent warming up.  In warm weather, a shorter warm-up may be sufficient, while in cold weather there is a greater need to warmup the body completely.  Although starting a warm-up too early may exert too much energy and lose its benefits.

The benefits of warming up can go far beyond the physical aspect.  A warm-up can also help us mentally by diminishing anxiety and preparing us emotionally for the race ahead.  After all, we spend countless hours training for this moment and want it to go as perfectly as planned.  We are creatures of habit and we are not about to change our routine now!

It seems that the rule of thumb is that the shorter the race the more intense and faster the warm-up should be in order to raise the body’s temperature and heart rate.  This will help the body reach race pace sooner and more efficiently.  As far as stretching, it seems that the old fashion stretching while standing in place is a thing of the past.  The so called “dynamic” stretches that will make you skip, swing, and lunge are now thought to be the way to go.  Be prepared to look funny doing it, but hopefully it will pay off at the finish line.

What is your pre-race routine?

The Art of the Road Marshal

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I will never again take for granted the job of race marshals and the many volunteers that guard the intersections along a road race.  A mistake by a road marshal, during my race today sent half of the runners in the wrong direction.  To make it worse, he apparently attempted to fix the mistake halfway through the race by sending the other half of the runners in the correct direction.  Chaos ensued when runners found ourselves running in opposite directions on the same road.  The confused look on race organizers and spectators at the finish line was priceless as runners finished the race from opposite sides of the finish line!  I am sure that honest mistakes by race volunteers are not uncommon, but a scenario like the one at this finish line must certainly be rare.

Clearly, one must have flexible goals when entering a race, since it is clear that anything can happen.  We should not take it too seriously when something crazy happens, especially when it is out of our control.  Lets simply laugh about it and move on to the next race.  For me, the next race is a half marathon about a month away.  Surely I expect a PR.  Although, I will be satisfied with a great experience.

 

At What Point Do You Consider Yourself A Runner?

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Following a 6 month hiatus, I have now been back to running for about 3 months.  As I prepared for my first race in 9 months, I began to wonder at what point can we consider ourselves runners.  When I came across this image, I think the question for me was answered.  The quote comes from an article by John Bingham, in which he listed this as one of nine possible reasons why you may consider yourself a runner.

What about you?  Do you recall the point when you first considered yourself a runner?

Farthest Run vs Furthest Run

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Ask me what my farthest run has been and the answer is simple.  Half marathon.  13.1 miles according to race organizers, although 13.2 is what Garmin said.  I guess I didn’t do a great job of running those tangents!  It would not take me long to recall the date, time, and weather conditions either.   Admittedly, it’s a pretty boring question with a pretty boring answer.

Ask me what my furthest run has been, on the other hand, and you would have to give me some time.  The latter question makes us reflect more deeply about how we felt, how difficult it was, or how much effort we exerted.  While physical conditions such as fatigue, weather, and terrain undoubtedly affect how far or how fast we run, often, it is our emotional state of mind that determines if we will run further today than we did yesterday.

When was your furthest run?

Was it that day when you felt like quitting, yet a voice of reason helped you dig deep and find the will to finish?  Was it when you ran proudly for a cause that reminded you why you run?  Perhaps you finally broke through a time barrier when you least expected it.  Maybe it was the time you ran with a friend, a run that changed your relationship.  These are the runs that we remember most.  These are the stories that define the journey.  Let us all strive to run further today than we did yesterday, on the road as well as in life.

Running Hazards – Phone or No Phone?

In the past few years, I have been caught in unexpected downpours, gotten lost momentarily, even been chased by dogs several times.  Nothing out of the ordinary for anyone who’s been running for a few years.  This was a first though.

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Apparently this mother was not very happy that I got so close to her babies.  As I got closer, I noticed she was hissing and moving closer to me.  Just what I needed to make that split at mile 3.  The trail was narrow with woods on one side and a canal on the other, so I didn’t have much of a choice.  I tried to speed up only to realize that she was going to chase me away and protect her territory.

Disaster avoided, I began to think of a question that seems to come up once in a while:

Phone or no phone?

The duck incident is far from an emergency.  All kidding aside, whenever we have a close encounter with a potential emergency situation, we are likely to start carrying a cell phone on runs.  The same goes for anytime when there is a running incident in the community or in the news.  As time passes, we seem to forget and become comfortable running without a cellphone again.  There is a definite sense of freedom from the everyday  burdens of life to be running alone enjoying nature, knowing that no one can get a hold of us.  Does the momentary escape from reality outweigh the security from potential hazards and risk of injury?

I am sure there are differing perspectives on this issue depending on where people live, where and how far we run, or even our age and health.  I’m not sure there is one right answer.  Is there?

Why do I run?

Today a friend asked me, “Why do you run?” I sort of said the first thing that came to mind, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Why do I run?  Why do other people run?  Running  is definitely on the rise in the United States.  The number of road race finishers has increased 200% in the past 20 years (http://www.runningusa.org/statistics), with nearly 14 million Americans finishing at least 1 race in 2011.

In this community (Rochester, NY) running is definitely on the rise.  However, in a typical race of say 500 runners, I’m guessing that there are 20 runners out there who came to win the race and are competing against one another, 80 are there for the novelty, maybe a one time thing, and the remaining 400, I am certain are there to compete against themselves.  That’s 80% of runners out there simply to  beat a previous mark, overcome a challenge, or achieve a personal goal.  To do so, some of us will spent countless hours running seemingly endless miles to reach that milestone.  Having missed a timed goal by merely 12 seconds, some will train for an entire year simply to erase one second off that time per month.  Sounds crazy? Only until you lace up yourself.  The determination and perseverance, stubbornness actually, in the face of personal defeat is quite a phenomenon.  The personal triumph, in the face of adversity is indescribable.  Personal triumph, that is, regardless of how fast or slow it actually is compared to the performance of others.

Here are the top three reasons why I run:

3.  The scenery is therapeutic.

The fresh air, the sounds, the aroma quickly become addicting.  Running provides the perfect setting and time to think.

Here are just a few of the places I’ve encountered while running.  Some which I never knew existed, only minutes from home.

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2.  Running is so analytical.

Ask most runners and they’ll tell you more details about a run than you care to know.  Best time, tempo pace, negative splits, temperature, distance, heart rate, you name it, all nicely organized into a spreadsheet, stared at and analyzed to find the perfect run.  Which leads to #1 of course.

1.  To compete against myself.

In no other sport, except maybe golf, can you compete by yourself and against yourself.  The older we get, the harder it becomes, yet the more determined runners seem to be.