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Training & advice

Make sure you warm up

It has been said that the typical runner's warm up is bending down to put on shoes and tie the laces! There are, though, many reasons why you should spend some time preparing for your training session or run.

What can a warm up do?

Depending on the activity you choose for your warm up it can:

  • Increase muscle blood flow , take oxygen to your muscles and increase the oxygen uptake
  • Increase muscle, tendon and ligament elasticity and so reduce the risk of injury
  • Increase body temperature and prepare you physically
  • Switch on the mind and prepare you psychologically
  • Accelerate respiratory system and help your breathing
  • Raise your heart rate and so activate your cardiovascular system
  • Increase supply of synovial fluid and so increase range of movement

Bending down to tie your laces won't do any of the above but a general warm up (slow and steady running) followed by a dynamic warm up (quick and extended movements of the muscles that you will use to run) will!

Here is a guide to some of the dynamic movements that you can do:

After the slow and steady running spend a few minutes mobilising the joints:

Foot circles to mobilise the ankles, prone kicks (lie on your front face down with your head resting on your arms, alternate bending each leg at the knee and kicking your bottom) leg swings - swinging from the knee and the hip, hip circles, bending at the waist and to the side, arm circles, shoulder rolling or shrugging.

After this it is time to start working specifically on the running action. Start with high knee walks where you bring your knee up to hip height with every step and then progress this into running with high knees and fast feet. You shouldn't move forward very quickly but your feet should be moving "ten to the dozen" with very short steps. You should also check that you have an "active foot". This means that your toes are pointed towards your shins (dorsi-flexed) so that the foot strikes underneath your hip and is flat on the ground. This "drill" is emphasising the running movement. You could also do some high knee skipping.

It is also good to challenge your coordination. Don't forget that the warm up is about the mind as well as the body! You could progress the high knee running drill to one where you take two normal running steps and bring the knee up to hip height on each third step, so that you alternate the high knee action with your right leg and left leg. 

These drills will encourage an efficient running style. You may also need to teach your body to activate the muscles that contribute to a good running posture. Many runners don't use their core and their gluteal muscles but it is easy to switch them on with a few simple exercises.

Walking backwards activates the glutes, which are important in stabilising the pelvis during running. Perform the walks as per above: bring the knee to hip height before stepping backwards. Consider the action of your arms. When your right knee is up, your left arm should be forward, as you take that leg back the left arm will also go back and your right arm will come forward to be ready to balance the left knee coming up.

These drills will ensure that you dynamically stretch the calves, hamstrings and quadriceps as well as improving posture and running technique. Whilst you are performing them imagine you have a helium balloon attached to your head that is lifting you up. Walk and run tall! It is advisable to get some feedback from a qualified coach or leader on whether you are performing these exercises correctly. Sometimes we feel that we are doing it correctly but are slightly off balance. A coach or leader will be able to guide you through an appropriate routine.

Before you go out on your training session there is just one more thing to do and those are ‘strides’ – fast running over around 60 - 80 metres where you accelerate from a slow start to a brisk pace.

Try this before your next training session and see how it works for you. You should feel that you get into your running much more easily and quickly and, you never know, it could prevent an injury!