Most runners don't really warm up before training, maybe just jump around a little and stretch. Even before a race, the usual warm-up includes some light jogging and then stretching. The incidence of injuries to runners remains high-about 50 percent each year according to most studies. Over the years 90 percent of members have missed a workout due to injury. Here's an injury-prevention warm-up program designed Martin Hazuka, D.C., CCSP, specifically for competitive runners and high school cross country teams.
- Jump rope, with knees bent about 15 degrees, letting them dip as you land and flexing your ankles to push off. Land on the balls of your feet.
- Flex your knees about 45 degrees and hop from side to side about three feet. Stay crouched and try to land lightly.
- Begin with knees bent at 30 degrees and slowly flex your knees into a half squat.
- Lean back against a wall, feet about a foot away. Keep your heels on the ground and raise your toes as high as possible. Lower your toes close to the floor and raise them again. Repeat 15 to 20 times, take a 20 second rest, then do another set.
- Lean your hand on a wall for balance, raise one leg while you bend the opposite knee until you are close to a one-leg half squat position. Alternate legs for 15 to 20 reps.
- Perform lunges with alternate legs. Avoid bending your front knee more than 90 degrees when you land, and it should be in line over your heal. Keep your trail leg slightly bent.
- Stair stepping on bleachers, regular stairs, or on a box.
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees bent about 15 degrees. Dip your knees further, but short of perpendicular, and jump quickly as high as possible. Land with knees bent and immediately jump again. Complete 10 consecutive jumps, rest 30 seconds and do one or two more sets.
- Stand on an upward slanted surface and perform toes raises, holding each for about five seconds.
- Each of these activities should take about 45 seconds. Then perform the following sequence for about 25 yards each: toe walking with toes pointing straight ahead; heel walking with toes in the air; toe walking with toes pointing inward; side-to-side skip lead with left leg; backward jog; weaving jog, about five yards each side; toe walk with toes flared outward; side-to-side skip leading with right leg; repeat backward jog.
This program, which Hazuka calls "Pre-Hab," added about 25 minutes to training sessions. Most of the runners were enthusiastic about the program and found it enjoyable. The best runners liked it the most, while some of the substandard runners tended to regard it as extra work that didn't improve their chances of making the team. No runners missed a race due to injury during a season with the pre-hab program.
Although this is an uncontrolled experiment it is a thoughtful approach to reducing runners' injuries, and is worth more trials.