In a UK study on novice and intermediate runners it was reported that out of 1145 respondents, 570 were currently injured, furthermore, 86% of those currently injured reported continuining to run.
Whilst there are multiple different types and causes of running injuries, implementing a quality warm up that activates the correct muscle groups and mobilises key joints will not only improve performance but also help to decrease injuries. Whilst you may often pop the shoes on and off you go in the want of saving time, you will actually be increasing the chances of tweaking a muscle and taking yourself out of action.
Just as with any other sport, a warm up is a critical part of preparing both body and mind for the activity ahead. Your warm up doesn't need to be a 30minute sessions, but simply allocation five minutes to work through a pre-run routine will have great benefits, especially if you are doing any form of interval or tempo running.
What are the key components of a good warm up....
You may have heard of the acronym RAMP before. Well RAMP is scientifically backed warm-up formula used by most coaches to prepare their athletes for sport.
R - aise: This will consist of any form of light activity from jumping jacks on the spot, walking or dynamic warm up exercises. The focus here is on raising key physiological parameters, namely blood flow, muscle temperature, core temperature, muscle elasticity and the quality of neural activation and conduction. This is achieved through the targeted use of low-intensity movements.
Given that the Raise phase of the warm-up was concerned with raising key parameters of physiological performance such as body temperature and muscle temperature, what is critical is that the Activation and Mobilization phase actually builds on these temperature-related elements of the warm-up and that the benefits of the Raise phase are not lost.
A - ctivate: This part of the warm up is about activating key muscle groups that will be called upon in the activity ahead. For runners this would include calfs, hamstrings, glutes and trunk muscles. It is very important to get the neuro-muscular system firing so that muscles will be readily able to produce force when called upon.
M - obilise: Lubricating key joints and optimising range of motion as well as focusing on similar movement patterns that will be required. For runners it would make sense to open up the hips, especially if you have been sat down for hours before your run. Aiming to open up the body and restore muscle length prior to starting will enable force production over a greater range of motion = good!
P - otentiate: Gradually increasing the stress on the body in preparation for the upcoming activity. For a runner this might consist of some light plyometric activity or some increasing tempo runs.
It is important to note that the activation and mobilisation phases can and often are used interchangeably and targeted as one, often with certain movements achieving the desired effect of both.
But what if I am only doing a light stroll?
If you are simply going out for a very light 10-15minute jog then it is less important to include a warm up as you aren't working up to anywhere near maximal. However, it is more about building good quality habits. The warm up might be shorter but with most of us leading highly sedentary lives, there is no harm adding some extra full body movement work into our day.
GIVE THIS A GO...
Here is a short dynamic warm up routine I put together that focuses on the lower body and incorporates the RAMP protocol from above. Obviously you may want to add some increasing tempo runs prior to setting off.
You can of course play with the number of reps, you don't need to do a crazy amount, focus on a 8-10 reps of each exercise, and add 1-2 of your own that you like in. The most important thing is that it is done with intent, don't just go through the motions but really focus on priming the body!
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