Running experts continue to debate the importance of stretching before a workout or race, but they do agree on one thing: You never want to start a hard run cold.
"Beginners often never warm-up and always say their muscles don't feel loose until mile two or three," says John Honerkamp, a coach for New York Road Runners (NYRR) who's training a team of runners for this year's ING New York City Marathon. "A warmed up runner goes from 30 to 60 versus a non-warmed up runner, who goes from 0 to 60. And you can actually injure yourself without a proper warm-up."
Here are what coaches around the country have to say about a proper warm-up and what you should do to get ready for the big race.
So what does a proper warm-up entail? Light stretching is important, but it's the drills that are key, says Spencer Casey, the national coach for Team ASPCA and the New York Athletic Club's women's elite running team. "Drills work different planes of motion and really stimulate the central nervous system." This stimulation is the key to priming the body for competition.
Robert Cavanaugh, an elite runner in New Jersey and owner of RTC Training adds that by incorporating simple drills into your warm-up, you "can make a significant difference toward improving your running form and pace." Not only will this make you faster, but it'll also help to avoid injury.
Of course, that means you'll have to leave yourself enough time pre-race or before a workout to get the drills done. Casey recommends allowing "at least 45 minutes to get in a proper warm-up," even if you're pressed for time. It's better to cut your workout short than to skip your warm-up and cooldown. And what if your day calls for a shorter workout? Try to get in at least a good 20 minutes, says Casey. "You really need to prepare your body to fire on all four cylinders."
Know the Drill
So, before you race towards that PR or hit the track, here's a warm-up routine to try before your next tough effort. Do each exercise once for 50 to 75 meters, paying attention to your form and leg turnover. "These aren't meant to make you tired," says Casey. "Take your time so you can work on your form and technique."