Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

The IOSDT Triathlon Team has added a new partner.

Team Members will now receive a very nice discount on custom orthotics from InMotion Orthotics.

  • Custom comfort/accomodative foot orthotics for running or cycling shoes – $100 – regularly $150
  • Custom functional/corrective foot orthotics for running or cycling shoes (requires an rx from a healthcare provider such as a PT, MD, or Chiropractor) – $150 – regularly $200
  • Get 2 pair of running (works in mtn biking shoes too) or 2 pair of cycling (road or tri shoes) orthotics – get an additional 25% off the 2nd pair.
  • Other services – replace the top cover of your existing orthotic – $20

Contact:

Jeff Freer, C.Ped
President
InMotion Orthotics, Inc.
919-810-4642
jeff@inmotionorthoticsnc.com

If you want to become a better triathlete or runner, you have to have a willingness to suffer. The word suffer does not need to have a negative connotation. Although the official definition is to undergo or feel pain or distress,  it can also mean allowing yourself to push beyond your comfort level. Our comfort level is just that – comfortable. It’s working hard, but not hurting too much. It’s breathing hard, but not uneasily so. Willing to suffer can help you break through those barriers.

But how do you do it?

Train yourself to suffer

You have to suffer in training. There is no way around it. We all have goals for the season (at least, I hope we all have goals for the season), and these goals need to be at the forefront of your mind when you need to make it hurt. Training with others can also help push you past places you haven’t been, or don’t usually go by yourself – the hurt locker.

Every training session should not be a suffer-fest. Key training sessions, breakthrough workouts, and workouts that your coach marks “Do not miss this one!” are the ones where you need to focus and be willing to suffer.

Growing up, there was a very well known high school running coach in my area. I remember reading an article about one of his best athletes who had just had an amazing race. When asked how she had such a breakthrough performance she said, “Coach told me I needed to run with PAT today. Pain, Agony and Torture.” Now that seems a bit extreme, but the idea of it has never left me. Be open and embrace the discomfort – yeah, okay PAT, I’m ready to run with you today.

Suffering takes experience

Experience is needed to know how and how much to suffer. Everyone’s perceived pain tolerance is different. I was once told that if something hurt, that was your body’s way of telling you to slow down. I was completely baffled by this idea – how will you ever make any athletic gains if you don’t ever allow your body to hurt? But my hurt and your hurt may be completely different. Training at different effort levels, at different paces and heart rate zones can all help us develop our own internal guide. All of this will help when you get to your races, but pure racing experience is tough to simulate. So get out there and sign up for some races!

Suffering in races

Suffering in racing can be easier for some folks, but here’s the thing – you can’t expect to show up to a race and put up with racing discomfort when you have never put yourself in that type of discomfort in your training. Magic doesn’t just ‘happen’ on race day. You wouldn’t show up to a race and expect to swim fast if you haven’t swum fast in training, right? Aha – caught some of you. It’s time to go throw in some really hard intervals on short rest in the pool! 😉

As mentioned above, every race does not need to be a suffer-fest. This can lead to burnout very quickly. That’s why it’s good to have ‘B’ and ‘C’ races where you may be dialing down the effort, working on something specific, or just not worrying about your finish and simply having fun. When you toe the line for your ‘A’ race, though, you’ll be ready to go to that proverbial well.

Check your ego

This is an interesting quote:  “Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily…” I can relate this quote to many aspects of training, but it also resonates with racing. Have you ever gotten close to the end of the race and seen another competitor up ahead? You can dig really deep and try and beat them to the line. It’s going to hurt and, and – gasp – what if you fail?! It would be so much easier to just sit back here in this comfortable position and finish. But, so what if you don’t catch them? You have shown yourself that you’re not done racing until you cross that line, no matter what the outcome may be.  And of all the outcomes that could happen…failing to try your best is definitely NOT going to be one of them.

Mental Tricks

There are many different ways to handle suffering other than just telling yourself to suck it up. If fact, telling yourself, “suck it up,” is so intangible it may not help at all.
Remove yourself from the situation. I don’t mean in a way that causes you to lose focus on the task at hand, but in a way that you can put some of the discomfort your feeling toward the back of your mind.

I remember reading that when Shalane Flanagan won the bronze medal in the 10K at the Beijing Olympics, she imagined she was doing one of her hard runs on the Tobacco Trail. There she was, vying for a medal in arguably one of the most important races of her life and she’s mentally putting herself on a trail where she knows she’s had fantastic runs and can stay relaxed, rather than getting wrapped up in the high pressure moment.

Focus on specific form cues. Having short mantras you can repeat can get your mind focused on something that will enhance your race, while also alleviating negative self talk. Here are couple of examples I will use. During the swim: “Reach…and pull” During the run: “Quick feet, elbows in.”

Develop some of your own form cues to concentrate on

Come up with small goals. Sometimes you may need to resort to bargaining with yourself: you can walk at the next aid station, or, run 3 more light poles, walk 1, run 3 more. These little goals can help break the race and/or training down into doable parts when you’re having a particularly rough time.

Draw confidence from some of your hard training sessions. “I got through that horrible bike workout where coach had me do multiple 20min rounds at Z4…I can get through this!” or “Remember those mile repeats you nailed? You were strong then and you can be strong now.”
Run with PAT.

Finally, I need to stress that when I’m talking about suffering and pain, I’m referring to workout discomfort, NOT injury pain. There is a big difference between pushing your body to make physical gains and knowing when to stop because you’re going to hurt yourself. As an endurance athlete it is extremely important to understand when to say when…and when to not say when. Sometimes this only comes through experience, but often times it comes from listening to your body and responding appropriately.

Coach Bri Gaal of One Step Beyond is certified with USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field.  She has suffered a lot over her athletic career, in a good way.

An Afternoon
with Dr. Jack Daniels
May 1, 2011
1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

@ Human Performance Consulting Athletic Lab
1823 NW Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513

  • Ingredients of Success
  • Principles of Training
  • Aerobic Profiles
  • Planning a Training Season

Dr. Jack Daniels has been called the “world’s best coach,” by Runner’s World magazine. He is currently the head coach of cross country and track at Brevard College in Brevard, NC. Dr. Daniels has been named the National Coach of the Year by the NCAA, which also honored him as the Division III Women’s Coach of the Century.

During his 35-year coaching career, Daniels has coached 30 individual NCAA Division III National Champions, eight NCAA championship teams, and 130 All-Americans. Daniels has also coached five Olympians in men’s and women’s distance events and two sub-2:10 marathoners. Among the runners he’s worked with are Jim Ryun, Alberto Salazar, and Joan Benoit Samuelson.

An accomplished author, he has written four books, the most recent being the 2nd edition of the popular Daniels’ Running Formula. He has also written more than 50 articles published in scientific journals and frequently contributes running stories to popular magazines.

Before Brevard, Daniels was the head distance running coach at the Centre for High Altitude Training at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Throughout his career he has been a featured speaker at coaches’ clinics, running camps and symposia.

One of his special interests is the effect of altitude on training and racing. In 1968, he served as the altitude consultant to the U.S. Olympic Track & Field team for the Mexico City Olympics.

Daniels came to coaching after achieving greatness as an athlete himself. In the modern pentathlon, he was a member of the Olympic silver and bronze medal teams in 1956 and 1960.

Registration: General Public: $50 until April 17 $75 after April 17 USA Triathlon Coaches (with 5 CEU credits): $75 until April 17 $100 after April 17 Seating is limited. Early Registrants will be eligible for a drawing for a free pair of shoes. (4 pairs to be given away courtesy of Raleigh Running Outfitters.)

Payment @ Payment @ Sportoften.com or Jack Daniels Coaching Clinic Or mail check to: AA Elite Coaching Ltd. 77 Lily McCoy Lane, Pittsboro NC 27312 Include Name, Address, Email, Phone and USAT # if applicable.

For More Information: Contact Andrew Allden @ aacoaching@aol.com or 919-619-3426

Any competitive running schedule is based on a few main premises.  Volume and intensity comprise the overall themes, while individualization for your age, experience, and goals make up the variables to work around.

However, the components of a good run training plan come down to four (and a half) key types of workouts:
•    fast/speed or intensity workouts done at or over lactate threshold effort
•    tempo or moderate hard workouts done at a sub-threshold effort
•    long runs at an aerobic pace
•    drills sessions

•    Core/strength training

Training zones/paces
There are two main methods to discovering your appropriate training paces.  The first is to use a running pace calculator like Jack Daniels VDOT method.  In this you take a recent race result and plug it into a calculator, which computes your training paces.  The VDOT method is very useful and find yours here.

The second method is to find your lactate threshold heart rate for running and then run based upon heart rate training zones.  Lactate threshold is the effort that a fit athlete can hold for roughly an hour.  Untrained athletes can’t hold this pace quite as long.  The easiest way to find LTHR is to run a 30 minute time trial, take the average of the last 20 minutes, and then use a calculator to discover HR zones.  There are other methods but this is the one we advocate.  A good HR calculator is here.

Note we are not affiliated with either linked site, they are just useful resources.

Fast workouts
Fast workouts are appropriate for all running distances up to the marathon.  These are also the most demanding.  An example speed workout (speed in this article is relative – we’re not talking about the 100 meter dash but 5k and above) would be 4 x 1200s at 5k pace with 200-400 meter jog recovery.  Another common set is 8 to 12 x 400s at 3k pace with 200 jog.  The number of repetitions and recovery intervals are adjusted for experience levels and current fitness.  Older athletes will almost always require more rest after an interval session than younger athletes.  That’s just nature.

Tempo runs
Tempo runs and tempo intervals are run at a sub-threshold effort.  These are not quite as demanding so they don’t require as much recovery post-workout.  All runners will benefit from tempo runs, but they are most useful for 10k and above distances.  A common workout is to warm up and then 20-30 minutes at tempo pace.  Another is to warm up and then run 4-6 x 1 mile with 1-2 minutes rest between each.  (Always cool down at least 5 minutes if not more). This is in heart rate zone 3 if you are using heart rate and the pace is slightly faster than Daniels marathon pace.  Daniels does not advocate running in this ‘grey’ zone, but many runners will run 10k to half-marathon at this pace, so it is a good idea to train at the pace you will race at.  This is the principle of specificity.

 
Long aerobic runs
Long easy to steady aerobic runs are intended to improve your aerobic ability.  Many motivated runners run too fast on these.  Your pace and effort should not be difficult.  The challenge of these is the duration.  Recreational 5k runners should build up to at least a 6-8 mile run, and marathoners will often go up to 22-24 miles in a pre-marathon build up.

Drills sessions
Running drills (like high knee drill, skips, bounds, and strides) and a number of plyometric exercises (like box jumps or jump rope) are all meant to improve your ability to minimize ground contact time – bounciness in other words.  Running consists of concentric and eccentric muscle contractions.  When you lift your leg to stride forward, your hamstrings shorten in a concentric muscle contraction.  When your foot lands, your quad muscles undergo an eccentric muscle contraction.  Essentially, with every step forward your muscles have to fight the downward force of gravity; your muscles briefly elongate while you exert force to begin the upward contraction to step forward again.  This eccentric contraction is why your quads are so sore after downhill runs.  These sessions are not overly taxing on the aerobic or anaerobic system but can result in a good deal of post-workout muscle soreness, especially in less experienced athletes.   You can view a few running drills here.

Core/strength training
Efficient movement patterns and power transfer are dependent on having a stable base to operate from.  If your legs are strong but your back/hip and trunk muscles are weak, a lot of the effort you put into running will dissipate through your body rather than transfer to the ground.  Some runners develop good core strength strictly through run training, but most of us can benefit from supplementary strength training.  Simple examples that you can do anywhere include planks, sit-ups, and bodyweight-only squats.

Generally speaking, most training mini-cycles (like a week) will include all of these in some shape or form, except in very early base building or transition (post race season).  Experienced runners might do a few drills within each training session.

Marathoners will also include a number of longish running sessions with several miles at goal marathon pace (MP).  This pace is not as fast as tempo but faster than easy/long.

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach and recently completed the USA track and field level 1 coaching clinic.  He has been a runner for twenty years.

It’s time to start planning your 2011 season.  What are your goals?  What is your next big adventure?  Here are a few resources to help you:

The DELTA Triathlon Multisport Calendar is a mash up of nearly all events which will be important to you.  Presented by Inside-Out Sports, the hard work has been done for you so that you can view the event opportunities in one place.

Winter Triathlon Clinic

Running Seminar with RunningB Coaching

Know Thyself by Marty Gaal (Article)

Prioritization by Marty Gaal (Article)

Planning A Season by Marty Gaal (Article)

Join The IOSDT Triathlon Team (website)

Wisely Selecting Your First Ironman by Todd Spain (Article)

 

 

RunningB.com presents
Two-Part Running Seminar focused on the
Tobacco Road Marathon and Half Marathon

The first seminar will focus on training for the race, nutrition, and cold weather running.
The second seminar will focus on tapering for the race, race day strategy, and race day attire.

Dates:  Seminar I:  Monday, December 13th 7:00-8:30pm
Seminar II: Monday, February 28th, 7:00-8:30pm

Cost:   $15.00 per session, or $25.00 for both   (RunningB clients- $10.00 per session or $18.00 for both)
Cash or check accepted day of seminar

Please RSVP to Brennan@runningB.com by December 10th.

Place:  Suzy Nisbet’s home
203 Preston Oaks Lane; Cary

Please come and join us for light refreshments, door prizes, and fun!   Meet others who are training for the race and pick up some pointers from a veteran runner and coach.

Happy Training,

Brennan Liming
http://www.runningb.com
919.817.0370

February 12-13, 2011

Saturday- Sunday
1:00 PM – 6:00 PM
5-10 USAT CEU Credit Course
Human Performance Consulting
Athletic Lab – Cary NC
1823 Northwest Maynard Rd Cary NC 27513
Minutes from Raleigh & Durham & RDU Airport

Saturday – February 12, 2011
Core Training for the Triathlon – Sage Rountree
Considerations for Coaching Youth Triathletes – Stacey Richardson
The High-Yield Minimalist: Lower-Volume High-Intensity Training – Eric Bean

Sunday February 13, 2010
Running for Triathletes – Andrew Allden
Swim Training for the Triathlon – Marty Gaal
Cycling’s “T’s”: Technique, Testing, Tempo, Threshold, & Time Trialing – Eric Bean

Registration fee:  $150.00 USAT Certified Coach; $100 for General Public (each day counts as one session) or $25.00 discount for USAT Coaches signing up for both sessions ($275.00)

Registration:  Register at SPORToften.com
Or mail check:  Andrew Allden, 77 Lily McCoy Lane, Pittsboro NC 27312
Include Name, Address, Email, Home and Cell Phone and USAT # if applicable.
Questions? Contact: Andrew Allden, aacoaching@aol.com  919-619-3426 or visit Athletic Lab

INSTRUCTORS

ANDREW ALLDEN, M.Ed., is the head coach of endurance events for the Human Performance Consulting Elite Team.  He joined the HPC staff following a successful 20-year collegiate coaching career in track and cross country at the Division I level.  As a college coach, Allden served as the cross country and distance coach at the University of North Carolina, the University of South Carolina, and Tulane University.  He also served as head track and cross country coach at Tulane University and Coastal Carolina University. Allden has been a successful coach of elite runners for a number of years.  His current top charge is the #5 ranked 800m male in the U.S. (outdoor, 2009). Allden has coached athletes ranging from an Olympic 4 x 400 silver medal winner to a top-10 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials finisher. Road running athletes coached by Allden range from a state masters marathon record holder to an ultra marathon national champion.  Nationally known as a USATF Level I Coaching Educator for the endurance events, he has directed and instructed in 20 USATF Level I coaching schools in the past dozen years. As a cross-country coach he earned coach-of-the-year honors in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana. While at Coastal Carolina Allden was the Southeast Region coach of the year and a finalist for national coach of the year. Allden was the men’s distance coach for the U.S. men’s track and field team at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in 2004. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Allden directed the distance practice facility. Allden currently serves as men’s long distance running and coaching education chairman for NC USATF. A 1986 graduate of Emory University and he has a master’s in sport administration from the University of Georgia (1991).

ERIC BEAN, M.S., is a professional triathlete and the coach of the Fast Forward Triathlon Pro Development Team presented by Inside-Out Sports. Prior to founding FFT (a coaching service that mates Bean’s training system to local coaches who are themselves elite athletes) Bean was the head coach of the Stanford University Triathlon Team, the USAT Collegiate National Champion, and is frequently seen on the pro podium in ITU and Ironman racing. Bean’s breadth-upon-depth understanding of triathlon training is guided by his athletic background as an NCAA swimmer and runner, and masters national champion cyclist. A nerd at heart and proud of it, Eric holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering, an MS in Biomechanical Engineering, and is currently spreading his final year of medical school over two years to race Ironman Hawaii for the fifth time. Practicing what he preaches, he used his high-intensity, lower-volume approach to endurance training to race to an 8:29 Ironman personal best. After residency in anesthesiology he plans to unite his medical, athletic, and engineering interests with clinical practice in anesthesia, insightful sports physiology research, and coaching. He splits his residence between North Carolina and the Midwest. You can reach him at eric@fastforwardtriathlon.com

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach who lives in Cary, North Carolina.   He and his wife Brianne coach triathletes through their company, One Step Beyond OSB Multisport.  Marty has been swimming in ocean competitions since 1986 and racing triathlon since 1989.  He is also the head coach of the TAC-OSB Masters swim team at the Curran Aquatic Center in Cary.  One Step Beyond recently produced the  Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form freestyle technique DVD, intended to help new to intermediate triathlon swimmers become faster and more powerful in the water.

STACEY RICHARDSON, is a professional triathlete and certified mulitsport coach. Her coaching certifications include:  USATF Level I, USA Cycling Level II with distinction, USAT Level I, and WSI Red Cross.  In the Triangle Stacey has been the event coach for the Carrboro Classic Duathlon for 2007 and 2008 as well as co-coach of the Fleet Feet Raleigh Marathon program.   She is also part of the TriangleMultisport coaching team that founded North Carolina’s first kids’ triathlon team in 2008 and continues to work with youth triathletes on a daily basis.   She is currently coaching both youth and adults.  Her coaching experience includes more than ten years of coaching kids in age-group swimming as well as three years of multisport kids’ coaching.   One of her specialties is youth athlete development and bringing skilled and balanced kids into the world of multisport training and competition.  With her guidance, two of her youth athletes took first and second in the female 15-16 age group this year in the NCTS.  Another stellar youth athlete achieved his personal goal of leaving kids’ tris completely and (at age 11) racing sprint triathlons against adults.   The ranks of her adult athletes, include two National Age Group Champions in 2010, and her top male athlete again won the NCTS State title for Open Men.

SAGE ROUNTREE, Ph.D., is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and USA Triathlon level 2 certified coach. She holds coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the Road Runners Club of America, as well. Rountree is author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga (VeloPress, 2008) and The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga (VeloPress, 2009); creator of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga DVD (Endurance Films, 2008); and a contributor to USA Triathlon Life, Runner’s World, and Yoga Journal. She has competed for Team USA at the Short-Course World Triathlon Championships, run the Boston and New York Marathons, and completed Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year. She coaches athletes at all levels, including elites who have competed at the duathlon long- and short-course World Championships.  Rountree leads workshops, at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and at ZAP Fitness, an elite training facility for post-collegiate runners. She trains, teaches, and coaches in Chapel Hill, NC.

Off The Beaten Path

Posted: October 22, 2010 in Running

Trail running is to running like mountain biking is to road cycling. There is nothing like running somewhere different, where the cars can’t go and where you can have a one-on-one with Mother Nature.

Trail running improves balance, coordination, strength, and keeps you in the moment. You really need to focus on where you’re going to put your foot on the next stride and how you’re going to tackle the next hill. That’s what makes it so interesting. Your risk for overuse injuries is much lower than road running because the terrain is more forgiving on your muscles, tendons and joints.

When heading out to the trails, make sure to run with your buddies or dog, tell someone where you’re going and which trail, and take a cell phone with you for safety. If possible, take a trail map with you and keep track of where you are along the trail.

While trail running, it helps to keep your arms (elbows) a little wider for balance. Your stride is a little different than road running because you will need to clear rocks and tree roots and lift your feet a little higher off the ground. You also may need to hop left or right to bypass things on the path like tree branches. Some trails are paved with limestone and are therefore more predictable, while other trails are single track trails with rolling hills, rocks and tree roots.

In Story Trailrun

Eyes on the Trail

The key is to keep your eyes on the trail and focus on where you’re going to take your next step. It can be tempting to look at the nature around you. If you want to look around–walk or stop–but avoid looking up while running. Look ahead about three feet on the trail and then find a line or a spot where you’re going to step for the next four to six strides. This keeps you focused and in the moment–I find this to be the gift of trail running. You will begin to instinctively know where that line is as you become more comfortable.

Slow Down and Smell the Roses

Don’t expect to run the same pace as on the roads. The terrain alone will be more challenging, in addition to the rocks and other objects on the trail. Slow your pace and develop a tempo within the trail. Sometimes that may mean walking the hills and running the downhills and flats. Find a pace where you can enjoy the terrain.

Hill Techniques

Take short, quick steps or power walk when running up hills, if needed. It’s just like changing gears on your bike when you ride up hills. Use your gears, shorten your strides and soon you will find yourself on top of the hill. Conserve your energy on the uphill so you can take advantage of the downhill.

On the down hills, lengthen your stride, keep your weight slightly forward and arms wide, find your line, and relax into it. Take quick steps, never landing fully on each foot.

Most importantly–have fun on the trails. It’s a serene place and a great way to mix up your regular running routine, get stronger and see new sites along the way.

Jenny Hadfield is the co-author of the best-selling Marathoning for Mortals, and the new Running for Mortals and Training for Mortals series. She has trained thousands of runners and walkers with her training plans. Train for your next event with Coach Jenny’s Active Trainer Plans.

This article originally appeared on Active.com — your source for event information, training plans, expert advice, and everything you need to connect with the sport you love.

Many of us are nearing the end of our season and with that comes ‘A’ races and the taper. Tapering can be a funny thing – sometimes you feel great when tapering and sometimes you feel horrible. Neither of these scenarios  predict the outcome of your race – it’s important to let the taper do what the taper wants and not become all mental during the time. Here are a couple of different ways the taper may affect you:

You feel extremely tired and sluggish. You require more sleep and can’t believe you did the training you were able to do because doing a 30 minute run right now causes you to take a nap. You might not be able to get your heartrate very high, or conversely, you may not be able to keep your heartrate down.  This phenomenon is due primarily to your body’s inherent drive to repair & rebuild itself (on the cellular level) from the extended training period.

This period can last 5 days to 2 weeks. Some people do not really notice any major differences, while others may find themselves in a ‘fog’ for a few days. If you experience this recovery fog, take note:

•    Don’t go harder or longer to ‘push through’ it. Your body is getting you ready for the one day you really care about. Keep your effort levels appropriate.
•    Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
•    Eat well, but don’t use this period as an excuse to over-eat.
This is only a temporary period, and you will feel great after being rebuilt stronger…faster…and ready to go on race day.

Because of underlying genetic factors related to your lifestyle, recovery habits or years of prior experience, you may feel absolutely wonderful on the taper. Don’t be fooled into doing harder/longer efforts than your coach has scheduled for you. Save it for race day! It is still important to sleep and eat well, and most importantly, tighten the reigns and hold yourself back.

Some people fall somewhere in between the above two scenarios. Don’t be surprised if you have some emotional swings during the taper (or should I say, tell your significant other not to be surprised if you have some emotional swings!)

Another common occurrence is catching a cold or mild sickness. Sometimes during these rest periods your immune system goes into rest mode, too.

Sleep and eat well.

Do you see a common thread here throughout the taper? Sleep well. Eat well. Don’t freak out. Get to that start line and GO.

Bri Gaal is a multiple USAT All-American and USA Triathlon coach.

Instory LabToo often, athletes show up late to a group workout and just jump in on the fast swimming, running or riding with no warm-up. Others are pinched for time, trying to squeeze a workout into a busy schedule, so they skip the warm-up figuring the main set of the workout is more important anyway.

Is a warm-up really necessary? What constitutes a “good” warm-up?

Enhanced Performance

A warm-up activity serves two major purposes—to enhance performance and prevent injury. Consequently, a warm-up is both physical and mental.

Relaxed, sitting in your chair and reading this column produces a relatively low 15- to 20-percent of blood flow to your skeletal muscles. Most of the small blood vessels (capillaries) within those muscles are closed. After 10 to 12 minutes of total body exercise, blood flow to the skeletal muscles increases to some 70 to 75 percent and the capillaries open.

Along with more blood flow comes an increase in muscle temperature. This is good because the hemoglobin in your blood releases oxygen more readily at a higher temperature. More blood going to the muscles, along with more oxygen available to the working muscles, means better performance.

An increase in temperature also contributes to faster muscle contraction and relaxation. Nerve transmission and muscle metabolism is increased, so the muscles work more efficiently.

Injury Prevention

Scientific studies on linking warming up with injury prevention are difficult to administer. Few athletes want to go through a muscle stress test to see what it takes to tear a muscle.

Old studies on animal subjects determined that injuring a muscle that has gone through a warm-up process required more force and more muscle length than a muscle with no warm-up. This study is in line with the anecdotal data that acute muscle tears occur more often when the muscles are cold or not warmed up.

There have been human studies on sudden, high-intensity exercise and the effects on the heart. One particular study had 44 men (free of overt symptoms of coronary artery disease) run on a treadmill at high intensity for 10 to 15 seconds without any warm-up. Electrocardiogram (ECG) data showed that 70 percent of the subjects displayed abnormal ECG changes that were attributed to low blood supply to the heart muscle. Yikes!

The abnormal changes were not related to age or fitness level.

To examine the benefit of a warm-up, 22 of the men with abnormal results did a jog-in-place at a moderate intensity for two minutes before getting on the treadmill for another test of high-intensity running. With that small two-minute warm-up, 10 of the men now showed normal ECG tracings and 10 showed improved tracings. Only two of the subjects still showed significant abnormalities.

It is not known if a more thorough warm-up of 10 to 20 minutes would have made more improvements. It would have been interesting to see the results if the scientists would have taken the experiment that additional step.

Mental Preparation

Part of a warm-up process includes getting your head ready for the upcoming activity. Mentally preparing for the upcoming workout, or event, is thought to improve technique, skill and coordination.

This mental warm-up also prepares athletes for the discomfort of tough intervals or a race. If the mind is ready to endure discomfort, the body can produce higher speeds. If the mind is unwilling to endure discomfort, physical performance will certainly be limited.

How Much Should I Warm Up?

There is no hard evidence as to how much warm-up is needed before a workout or a race. Most recommendations are in the 10- to 20-minute range, though some athletes have found they need more warm-up time.

Athletes with high levels of fitness typically need longer warm-up periods before doing high-intensity workouts or short races. Athletes with lower levels of fitness usually use a shorter warm-up time. However, athletes with low fitness levels also tend to produce lower speeds during workouts and races.

Athletes with dormant speed and currently low fitness levels need to be particularly cautious with workout and race intensities in order to minimize injury risk. This means if you were once fast, but you’re now out of shape, be patient with building your speed and fitness.

A general recommendation for warming up is to begin with low-intensity swimming, cycling or running. Keep it mostly aerobic or Zone 1 intensity at the beginning of the warm-up. Gradually increase intensity as you progress through the warm-up period. You can include short segments of gradually increasing intensity in the 30- to 60-second range, with long rest intervals as you get closer to the high-intensity segment of your workout.

In order to perform at your best and minimize the risk of hurting yourself, take time for an adequate warm-up.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men’s and women’s teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale’s pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

This article originally appeared on Active.com — your source for event information, training plans, expert advice, and everything you need to connect with the sport you love.

References

  1. Noakes, Lore of Running, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 773-774.
  2. McArdle, Katch, Katch, Exercise Physiology, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001, pp. 574-575.
  3. Safran, et al, “Warm-up and muscular injury prevention. An update.”, Sports Med. 1989 Oct;8(4):239-49.
  4. Safran, et al, “The role of warmup in muscular injury prevention”, Am J Sports Med, 1988 Mar-Apr;16(2):123-9.
  5. Shephard & Astrand, Endurance in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, 2000, International Olympic Committee, pp. 474-475.