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?