Have you ever started a run and felt sluggish, heavy and thinking “I don’t think I can do this today”? But you stick with the run and things progress, eventually you start feeling a little more confident. Your legs loosen up and you start to gain speed slowly without too much extra effort. Then you enter the specific stage (speed, tempo, stamina workout) of your training run and things are just not happening. If you have felt all this you are not alone. Most of us roll out of bed in the morning or get back home from work and head out the door to “get this run over with” without much preparation. We skip the Warm Up part of our workout.
Well, I’m here to tell you that if you skip the Warm Up you are cheating yourself of your best performance. Don’t fool yourself by saying “I’m not a fast runner or an elite”. It doesn’t matter if you are a 17 minute 5K athlete or a 30 minute one. You may have noticed the “fast kids” warming up before a race and you think “Well their coach tells them they have to”. Yes, and they also run sub 20 minute 5Ks.
A proper Warm Up gets your body and mind ready of what is about to take place. It can be broken down in three parts.
So what do you need to do for a proper Warm Up? Here are some things I do before every run. First I do some hip-openers, chest-openers, squats, leg swings and lunges about 2-4 sets. These exercises open up my chest so my lungs fill up with more air during my run. Loosen up my hips and joints so they don’t stiffen my run. Mobility workouts, here Matt Fitzgerald describes a few of the workouts you could do before your runs.
2. Energy Delivery system
Right after that I head out the door for an easy mile or two. That gets the heart pumping and Oxygen-rich blood flowing to the working muscles. Warming up the muscles and tendons gets them ready for the hard work to come and will prevent injury. Next, is time for a few running form drills. These will “wake up” the nervous system which is an important part of the Warm-Up. They are great co-ordination exercises. Jason Fitzgerald demonstrates the basic Running Drills in a short video. You’d want to do these on key-workout days and not before Easy or Long runs.
3. Practice race/training pace
After the energy delivery system is set up and the muscles warmed is time for a few Strides. I only do those before a race or a speed workout. I run the pace that I will race or train for 20-25 seconds to see what it “feels” like for that day. And I only do 3-4 repeats. You’d want to do this right before the race (2-3 min before the start) or the start of your workout and not every time you run.
Once you incorporate this Warm-Up routine into your training it will become part of it and it will feel natural. Not only your performance will improve but your running Form will too.
If you want to build a stronger running foundation you should rotate your shoes.
I’d like to begin with a Disclaimer: I’m not a Podiatrist, nor a Physical Therapist not even a Foot Magician. Everything I’m describing in this post is from my own personal experience as well as knowledge I have gained from running experts.
Running increases the muscular endurance of our feet, legs and even the hips. Using the same shoes on every run will work on the same group of muscles all the time. If you used one or even two pairs in rotation on different days you could benefit.
A Shoe for each run.
Personally, I rotate between three sometimes even four pairs in a week. I run my Long Runs with a cushioned 10mm drop (heel to toe offset). A flatter 4mm drop and less cushioned for faster runs. A zero drop less cushioned for medium long runs and easy runs. And from time to time a barefoot shoe for easy short runs and recovery.
By mixing up the shoes gives my legs and feet a more complete workout. It truly builds your lower legs much stronger. Something that I can definitely notice. Although the cushioned shoes are comfy, the more minimal zero drop do more good to your muscles. They stretch the fascia muscles and makes them more flexible. Also the Achilles and Soleus and many more muscles will benefit.
Rotate what you already have
Don’t go out and buy three different pair of shoes all at the once. Rotate what you have in your closet first. Take out maybe an older shoe that has some life still left on its sole. If you already have a shoe that has more than 100 miles on it now is the time to shop for a new pair. Talk to your local running store experts. Ask them for a different drop shoe than the one you already own. Make sure the shoe is the right one for your feet (Pronation). Once this pair reaches the 100 mile mark is time to shop for a new one. Throw that in the rotation, Soon you will have choices to make on your runs. Remember since you are rotating your shoes they will last you for a longer time till they reach their end.
Choose the right shoe carefully
Although I own a few pair of shoes from many different brands they are all the same in one way. When it comes to Pronation Control they all fall in the Neutral category. They may vary in drop, cushion and style, but they are all Neutral. You should know your Pronation Control category and always stick with it. If you decide to buy a pair with a different drop than you are used to make the change slowly. Allow for transition time. The bigger the difference in drop the longer the transition. Remember you will be stressing tissue that has not been stressed and you will be risking injury.
I believe shoe rotation is a great way to build an injury free running body!