Sunday, August 19, 2012

What's a Good Warm-up Before Intense Speedwork?

Before beginning a speedwork session, it is imperative that you prepare your body with a good warm-up.  Easy jogging followed by dynamic stretching will help warm and loosen up your muscles.  It has been shown that while elite runners have normal joint flexibility, they have more dynamic flexibility when running.

Start with easy jogging anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 miles to get you moving more freely.  You can then do some dynamic stretches, which are movements similar to (but more exaggerated than) the way you will move during your more intense running.  These movements will help your agonist muscles (the ones doing the work) perform optimally by  allowing your antagonist muscles (the muscles opposing the working muscles) to relax. 

Some dynamic stretches you can do:

Lunge Walk - Take exaggerated steps forward with each foot, stepping forward as far as you can in a lunge and letting your knee come close to the ground.  Repeat 10-12 times.

Lunge Walk
Lateral Lunges - Standing, take an exaggerated step with one foot to the side, lowering yourself into a squat position. Stand back up immediately and lunge to the other side.  Do 5-6 times each side.

Lateral Lunge
Tilt Walk - Start walking and as one foot comes down lean forward and balance on that leg (with knee slightly bent) and lift other leg straight back so that your body is parallel to the ground. Come back up swinging back leg through to step forward on that foot and repeat action.  Do this for 30 seconds or so.

Tilt Walk
Zombies - Start walking and extend both arms straight out in front of you as you kick one leg up toward your hands as high as you can and then the other leg.  Do not bend forward; keep your back and head aligned vertically.  Do for 30 seconds or so.

Leg Swings - Find a wall or tree to lightly hold onto for balance.  Standing on one foot, swing your other leg back and forth as high as you can in a controlled manner.  Do 10-12 leg swings on each leg.

Leg Swings
Lateral Leg Swings - Facing the wall or tree, both arms extended forward lean lightly toward it to hold yourself, swing one leg from side to side passing in front of your body, going as high as you can in a controlled manner.  Do 10-12 leg swings each leg.

Lateral Leg Swings
Trunk Rotations - While standing, lift both arms straight out to your sides and twist your torso to the right then to the left as far as you can in a controlled manner but without stopping.  Do 10-12 times.

Trunk Rotations
When you have completed your dynamic stretches, begin running again easing into 5 or 6 20 - 40 second strides before beginning your actual speedwork session.

Intense running brings your body systems close to their peak performance rate so it's important to gradually return them to near normal with a proper cool-down.  As you did for your warm-up, 1 1/2 - 3 miles of easy jogging will accomplish this and you can continue the recovery process by following up with some gently stretching.

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