What’s the point in warming up before a long run? After all, the run will warm you up, right?
Many recreational and competitive runners certainly think this. About 70 per cent of recreational and competitive runners are also injured each year.
If you break out like Usain Bolt from your starting mark and haven’t limbered up, you are likely to seize up, tear something or both.
It’s also worth remembering that running is a repetitive movement where the force generated is about 2.5 times our body weight every time the foot hits the ground – that’s a lot of force over the 17000-odd footsteps you will take if you are running the 15 kilometres for the City2Sea.
For this reason, a light run (more repetition) is not the ideal way to warm up.
Similarly, some research has found that static stretching (where the stretch is held for more than 60 seconds), is a little like loosening a rubber band, meaning reaction times may be slower for sports that require speed and power. At least, if that stretching takes place immediately beforehand.
According to one review, long-term stretching successfully enhances flexibility without negatively affecting performance.
Right before your race however, a dynamic range of movements helps to prepare the connective tissue, warm the muscles and joints and gently increases the heart-rate, readying your whole body to run.
Those are just the effects of warming up on your muscles.
A good 8 to 10 minute dynamic warm-up also warms up our brain – stimulating the communication between the brain and body so that your muscles are moving efficiently and properly.
“Neuromuscular training is about stimulating the brain’s communication with the muscles,” explains Matt Phillips, a running injury specialist. “It therefore follows that any exercise or drill we perform to improve such communication needs to involve an element of concentration and skill requirement.
“We need to stimulate the brain, encourage it to communicate and activate more muscle fibres, improve timing so that the movements involved in stride mechanics become more coordinated and efficient. Simply going through the motions is not enough.”