Mur­phy’s Lore Warm up to warm­ing up, says Sam

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue - BY SAM MUR­PHY Sam Mur­phy tweets @ Sam­mur­phyruns

Pic­ture a start line in the fi­nal min­utes be­fore the gun. Whether it’s an Olympic track, a big-city marathon or the Lit­tle Codswol­lop 5K, you’ll see run­ners putting the fi­nal torso-twist­ing, quad-stretch­ing touches to their race prepa­ra­tion. And quite right, too: the warm-up – for that is what we’re talk­ing about here – plays a sup­port­ing role in ef­fi­cient run­ning per­for­mance, help­ing to gear you up metabol­i­cally, phys­i­o­log­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally. In a re­cent re­view of 32 stud­ies, the ma­jor­ity found that a warm-up of some kind im­proved ex­er­cise per­for­mance com­pared with no warm-up. Set­ting off with­out one is like putting the gas on un­der the pan be­fore you’ve even chopped your veg­eta­bles.

But spy on the aver­age run­ning-club meet­ing on a Tues­day evening – not to men­tion many a solo-run­ner’s jaunt – and you’ll find the all-im­por­tant warm-up is dis­pensed with. It is ab­sent even, dear reader, from team RW’S lunchtime out­ings to Hyde Park. Just as I’m about to start my sun salu­ta­tions and prepara­tory drills, my col­leagues’ GPSS lock on and they disappear round the cor­ner at eight-minute-mile pace.

So why is it that some­thing con­sid­ered so valu­able on race day is re­duced to noth­ing more than ‘I’ll shuf­fle from foot to foot while my Garmin finds a sig­nal’ at all other times? If it helps to im­prove per­for­mance, surely it shouldn’t be saved for spe­cial oc­ca­sions only? So I gath­ered up some ex­cuses from my run­ning bud­dies – ‘It’d eat into my run­ning time’, ‘I al­ways for­get when I’m on my own’, ‘I don’t want to use up all my en­ergy’.

I don’t buy any of it. For me, a warm-up is as much a part of the run as watch­ing the trail­ers is a part of a visit to the cin­ema. It’s not the main event, but the whole ex­pe­ri­ence is more com­plete and sat­is­fy­ing with it.

Per­haps it’s all in my head. Sport psy­chol­o­gists have noted the value of pre-per­for­mance rit­u­als – a se­quence of events that you al­ways run through in the same or­der, the com­ple­tion of which sig­nals to your body and mind that you’re ready to per­form. One study found that es­tab­lish­ing and us­ing such a rou­tine had a ma­jor im­pact on per­for­mance. Why? Maybe be­cause the ac­tions nar­row the beam of your at­ten­tion to the task at hand. Or per­haps be­cause you give your­self space to men­tally re­hearse the act you’re about to per­form, rather than sim­ply do­ing it, which helps to hone your skill.

When it comes to the claim that a warm-up will help you avoid in­juries, the wa­ter is murkier. It’s cer­tainly some­thing I’d stand by – and there is plenty of anec­do­tal ev­i­dence – but stud­ies that have at­tempted to find a cor­re­la­tion be­tween warm­ing up and re­duced in­jury rates have been in­con­clu­sive ( partly, per­haps, be­cause the warm-ups in­cluded in the re­search en­com­pass a large and dis­parate range of ac­tions, some of which may hin­der more than they help). But a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Bone and joint re­search re­cently found that when high-im­pact forces are in­volved (think run­ning, not walk­ing), calf mus­cle tears are more likely when mus­cle tem­per­a­ture is lower ( less than 32C), lead­ing the re­searchers to stress the im­por­tance of warm­ing up.

As far as I’m con­cerned, one of the most com­pelling rea­sons to warm up is that it makes the run feel much eas­ier – by­pass­ing the toxic 10 min­utes I oth­er­wise en­dure if I try to run be­fore I’ve walked. ‘ But you can warm up on the run!’ I hear you ar­gue. Yes, it’s true that tak­ing the first mile or two slowly will al­low your heart rate, body tem­per­a­ture and breath­ing rate to climb gen­tly, but is it the best way to get your mus­cles fir­ing and your brain on­side? I think not. Just do it. But warm up first.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.