A blog by runners. For runners.

Study: warm up more intensely to run faster

warm-up-harder-to-run-fasterHow many of you do a warm-up before each run? I only do when I’m doing speedwork. I run one easy mile before a tempo run or 800m- or 1-mile repeats.

But a new study says by doing an “easy” warm-up — or skipping it all together — I’m not doing myself any favors.

What the research says
Scientists from New Zealand published interesting findings on running warm ups in the Journal of Science in Medicine and Sport earlier this year. For the study, experts recruited 11 experienced distance runners and had them perform two warm ups and two race simulations.

For both warm-ups, the runners did a 10-minute easy run, five minutes of running at a faster pace, and six 10-second strides at mile pace or faster (that’s quite the warm-up!). The second time the runners did the warm-up they wore a weighted vest that was 20 percent of their body mass.

After each warm-up, the runners recovered for 10 minutes and then performed a series of jumps (to measure leg stiffness), another five minutes of running at a fast pace but not all out pace (to measure running economy), followed by a treadmill test (to determine peak running speed).

On a whole, the runners performed significantly better on the race simulation that followed the warm-up done with the weighted vest. Warming up wearing the weighted vest resulted in a very large improvement in running speed, a large improvement in running economy, and a moderate increase in leg stiffness.

Note: running economy measures efficiency, which means how much energy you require to run. The better your running economy, the less energy you’ll need to run long or fast. Leg stiffness may seem like a bad thing, but research shows it leads to better running economy in short races.

How to apply it
Don’t worry – you don’t need to warm up with a weighted vest to become a faster runner. But warming up more vigorously may yield great rewards, like PRs. Before your next race, start with a jog and then add in a few 100m pickups. Next, do “track drills” like skipping, butt kicks, high knees, and backwards running to ensure all of your muscles are adequately warmed up. The shorter the race is, the longer your warm-up should be.

If you’re not buying this, just watch professional runners before a big race. Chances are you’ll see them running hard and doing various other drills well before the start – and most will be sweating well before the race starts. Or think about how you feel during repeats. Oftentimes, our second or third repeats are faster than our first one because we’re better warmed up.

Do you have a tried and true warm-up routine that you always follow? Please share below!

Written by Jen Matz.

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