The warm up

The warm-up has two main purposes:

1. To gradually raise your heart rate, which enables the heart and lungs to supply oxygen to the working muscles efficiently.

2. To raise body temperature, which makes the muscles more pliant and joints mobile, allowing better movement and reducing the risk of injury.

What to do

The general rule is, the more demanding and intense the session, the longer the warm-up. Sprinters can spend an hour or more warming up – not only working on raising heart rate and body temperature, but also honing neuromuscular pathways (the link between the muscular and nervous systems), thereby increasing the speed and efficiency of muscle contraction.

The general rule is, the more demanding the session, the longer the warm-up. For a steady run, you could simply start at slow jog and work up to your usual pace. If you’re doing an intense session, like hill training or intervals, try some mobility exercises to mobilise the joints.

Opinion is divided as to whether static stretching before running is beneficial – but dynamic movements such as hip circles, lunges, knee lifts and leg swings are useful as long as they are done in a controlled and gentle manner – no jerking or bouncing. And only do these after you have warmed up.

Running drills

Drills are an important part of the warm-up for most elite runners. Their purpose is to warm-up key areas of the body, extend range of motion and switch on correct rhythm and timing – all adding up to better technique. Drills also build strength and power. Here, Christian Malcolm demonstrates …

1. Heel-toe drill

This exercise warms up the foot, ankle and calf muscles. A lot of athletes forget to warm up these important areas.

Step forward, landing on the heel of the front foot while you simultaneously rise up on to the ball of the back foot.

Roll through to the ball of the front foot, at the same time bringing the back leg forwards to land on the heel again. Move your arms in a slow running action. Repeat.

Routine: Continue for 20 metres.

2. Double ankle bounces

This exercise progresses from the heel-toe drill to further warm up the lower legs, adding impact and helping to speed up the rate of contact with the ground.

Jump up and down, focusing on “reacting up”, not allowing the heels to touch the ground and actively pointing and flexing the feet. Keep a slight bend in the knees. Raising your arms overhead adds a core challenge – a strong core is really important in sprinting.

Routine: Continue for 10 metres.

3. Heel flicks

This drill warms up the front and back of the thighs, improves range of motion in the knees and hips and gets you focused on correct timing and rhythm. Moving forward in a running action, bring your heels up to your bottom, bouncing from foot to foot and staying on the balls of your feet.

Routine: 2 x 10-20 metres.

4. High knees

This drill further improves range of motion at the hip and helps you stay tall when running. It also w0orks on maximising stride length. Move forward in a running action but exaggerate bringing your knees up to the front and do not lean your torso backwards. Stay on the balls of your feet, and use your arms as if you were running.

Routine: 2 x 10-20 metres.

About Christian Malcolm

Welsh sprinter Christian Malcolm is best known for his performances in the 200m. A former world junior champion over the distance, he was fifth in the event in Beijing – the same race in which Usain Bolt broke his second world record of the games. “I’m a realist, so I take things year by year,” says Christian. “But 2012 is my ultimate goal.”

The warm-down

In the same way that you shouldn’t start off a run at full speed, it is also inadvisable to come to a sudden halt while your heart is still pumping large volumes of blood around the muscles.

“Warming down and stretching after a session are really important,” says 19-year old middle-distance and cross-country runner Steph Twell. A gradual slowing of pace, to a jog and finally a walk, allows your heart rate to return to normal, preventing blood pooling in the veins, and speeding up the removal of lactic acid from your muscles, which lessens the likelihood of cramping or muscle spasm and may also hasten recovery.

As with the warm-up, the length of your warm-down depends on the length and intensity of your session. A tougher session requires a longer warm-down than a steady run.

The objective is to return to a resting state over a period of five to 10 minutes.

Six essential stretches

When your warm-down jog or walk is finished, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes stretching the muscles you have worked. Running causes the muscles to shorten and stretching helps them re-establish their resting length, so you don’t feel stiff afterwards.

To stretch your muscles effectively, you should move gently into the stretch until you feel a slight pulling – but never pain. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, ideally repeating twice on each side.

“If time is short, focus on the muscles that are particularly tight,” advises Steph.

Quad stretch (front of thighs)

Take your right leg up behind you, lifting the foot and taking hold of it with your right hand. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position – don’t arch the back – and gently pull the foot in towards your bottom, keeping your knees close together. Feel the stretch along the front of the thigh of the bent leg. Swap legs.

Calf stretch (back of lower legs)

Take your feet a stride length apart, with the right leg back and left foot forward. Now bend the front knee, but keep the back leg straight, and press the right heel gently down on the floor. Take a look at your back foot to make sure it is pointing directly forwards. You should feel a stretch in the middle of the calf muscle. To take the stretch down to the lower part of the calf and achilles tendon, bring your right foot forwards a little and bend both knees, keeping the hips under, and sinking down into the back heel. Swap sides and repeat both stretches.

Hip flexor stretch (front of hips)

Adopt a lunge position with your left foot forward and take your right knee to the floor with the lower leg extended behind it. Your front knee should be at around a 90-degree angle. Now tuck the pelvis under and press forward from the hips until you feel a stretch along the front of the hip and thigh. If you have your shoelaces facing the floor, you’ll bring in a quad stretch too. Swap sides.

Lower back stretch

Lie on the floor with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Drop your knees down to the right without allowing your body to follow. Take your left arm out to the side and place it on the floor, and bring your right hand over your thighs, gently drawing them towards the floor until you feel a stretch through the lower back and sides. Swap sides.

Hamstring stretch (back of thighs)

Lie face up on the floor with a towel, scarf or cord in your hands. Extend your right leg and place the loop of the cord around the sole of your foot. Gently straighten the leg and, keeping it straight, draw it in towards your head. Feel the stretch along the back of the right thigh. To make the exercise easier, bend the other leg, placing the foot on the floor. Swap sides.

Glute stretch (bottom)

Start by sitting tall with your legs out straight in front of you. Now bend the left knee and take the left foot across your right thigh, planting it flat on the floor. Place your arms around the left knee and gently draw it across the body, keeping the foot on the floor and your body central. Swap legs.

About Steph Twell

World junior 1,500m and double European junior cross- country champion Steph Twell celebrated her 19th birthday at the Beijing Olympics, where she competed in the 1,500m. “I wasn’t nervous,” she says. “Being there was a dream fulfilled – I wanted to race.”

Steph has been likened to Paula Radcliffe for her dedication, focus and gutsy performances. “My goal is to get a medal in London 2012,” she says.

Source: Read Full Article