It’s time to be honest and think about ourselves and our warming up. Hands up who has ever been for a run or started a race without warming up first? Quite a few of us I suspect. Who always heads out for a run or a race without any form of warm-up at all? Quite a few hands again at a guess, including me in the earlier stages of my running career. How many of us can honestly say that we warm up thoroughly for each and every run we do? Probably not many. Looking around at the start of a race or a parkrun confirms it. If anyone at all is warming up properly, it’s the runners who are at the front and doing everything they can to be first across the line. For everyone else, the start of the race is when we get going, or, at best, a short jog beforehand is what we do. And yet, as runners, most of us know deep down that warming up is something we should do.
So why is it then that we don’t? Thinking about my own experiences and those of the many runners I’ve known over the years, there are a whole range of reasons why warming-up is often the least thought-about aspect of our running lives:
* We don’t truly understand the importance of preparing our bodies for running. Unless we are coached by someone who knows, we often have only a vague idea of the positive impact that certain moves and techniques can have on our muscular and energy systems, and of the negative impact that not doing them can have. Sadly, it often takes injury to make the penny drop.
* Many of us simply don’t know what to do. Yes, there are many websites, magazines and books full of guidance, but where to begin? What is good practice and what is not can be hard to decipher, as is working out how to do moves correctly from descriptions and pictures.
* Often, we simply feel that we don’t have time. If we’ve arrived home from work late and are keen to get out for a run before dinner, warming up is often at the bottom of the priority list. As runners, we want to maximise the time we have to actually run, so we just lace our shoes up and go.
* Sometimes, we just can’t be bothered. When it’s cold and wet and windy outside, we just want to get moving. We put our jackets on, get out of the car or front door and we run.
* On occasions, we just forget. Nothing more, nothing less, we just don’t remember to do it.
* We think that warming-up is only for elites and those at the front of the pack. In other words, we don’t think we are good enough runners to need to warm up. If only we knew and appreciated that a warm-up routine would help us to be better runners too.
* Club culture often promotes a ‘turn up and run’ approach. It’s Wednesday, it’s 6.30pm, so we arrive, chat, sort ourselves into pace groups or whatever and we run.
* We sometimes think that the distance we are going to run for is not worthy of a warm-up, whether in training or a race. Strangely, this works at both ends of the spectrum. “Oh, it’s only 5K, I don’t need to warm up for that” can be heard just as often as “I don’t need to warm up for a marathon, it’s far enough as it is!”
* For some, the thought of how we might be perceived by others is enough to make us abandon any idea of warming up. If we have curtain-twitching neighbours, the thought of standing outside the front door going through a routine can be enough to put us off. For those who are data-minded, the very idea that our Strava statistics might be affected by a slow jog start will turn us off straight away
As runners, we can all recognise ourselves somewhere in that list; some of us may be able to add to it too. When it comes to warming up, it seems that the odds might be stacked against us. But are they? The theory and expertise are out there for the taking; we runners just need to adjust the priorities in our running lives.