When I first started running events, I used to see people warming up beforehand and think that they were completely crazy.
“You’ve got a whole race to warm up, people!”
Turns out those crazy people were on to something. It’s especially easy to ignore it when you are running a half marathon or marathon where it seems like adding more distance to that is just going to fatigue you more, but that’s not how energy systems or the human body works. And although the shorter the distance, the more important the warm up is – it’s vitally important either way.
When I did start warming up for races, people who follow me on Instagram, had a similar reaction to mine. Namely: “But why would you do that? WHY? You are already running 21km, 25km seems like you are setting yourself up to fatigue.” But actually the opposite is true. A full, thorough and comprehensive warm up will change your race, but it will also revolutionise your training too.
I get it. There is only so much time in the morning and if you add in a 20-30 minute warm up, what do you even have time for? Well you’ve got to work with your time constraints but I’d advocate for a shortened quality session over a shortened warm up every day of the week.
Today was a perfect example. My actual session was a 1.61 (Mile) time trial. So the actual work part of my session was only going to take 6-7 minutes. But I did a 3km warm up (2km Easy + 4 Strides) then the mile, then a 2km cool down.
The cool thing about today’s session is I can compare it to the time trial I did at Crossfit the other week. Technically, I was warmed up but I wasn’t specifically warmed up (in that I didn’t do a run and strides warm up) and in all honesty it felt pretty awful. The first part I felt like I was probably going to die and in the last stretch I felt incredibly fatigued and that my lungs were most definitely on fire. I finished that mile in 7:01 which is 1 second slower than my last PB.
Today was completely different. My body had been given an opportunity to find it’s rhythm on the easy run, I’d primed my muscles for what they were going to need to do in the strides and I’d prepared my central nervous system for what was about to happen. So when I started it didn’t feel awful. It felt pretty good, it felt under control. It got really hard at the end, as time trials tend to do. But I remember looking at my watch and realising I only had 400m to go and being able to bring the pace back up, even though the last 200m or so were up a slight incline. It felt strong, instead of death by mile. In the past I’ve had issues with maybe feeling a bit dizzy when it gets tough or even feeling on the sick side when I’m finished. No such issues today.
And it all comes down to that warm up. Energy systems renew themselves, so you don’t have to worry about creating fatigue but you do need to put the preparation in so that your body is ready for a peak performance effort.
Exactly the same applies to races: whether they be 5km or half marathon or marathons. It takes about 3km to find your rhythm so it’s fantastic to have that as your warm up and not your race. It also calms down your nerves because you have those brief strides at pace which show you that you do have the speed in your legs and the capability. So when you get to the start line you can just go and you don’t have to ease into anything and trust me it will feel a lot less like arse when you do warm up.