Friday, February 17, 2017

Chapter 13 - Warm-ups and Cool-Downs

Note: To me coaching is all about stewardship, using the knowledge and experience I have gained over 40 years as a runner, and 10 years as a coach, to help others pursue their running goals.  So rather than publishing a book you have to pay for, I am publishing it here on my blog, free for all (runners and coaches alike) to read and enjoy, maybe learn something from it, or potentially have it prompt you to look at something from a slightly different viewpoint.  If any of those happen, mission accomplished. 

"A proper warm-up and cool-down is our first line of defense against injury"

Next, I want to talk to you about the importance of a proper warm-up and cool-down and my recommendations on each.  

The primary mission of a warm-up is to get the body ready for the run or workout we are about to get started on by engaging the muscles and tendons we are about to work.  Secondarily it also helps us gain and retain a sufficient range of motion in our muscles, tendons and joints.  A proper warm-up goes a long way to keeping injuries at bay.

The specifics of what is needed from a warm-up can be as individual as the person engaging in it.  So my recommendation is that you follow the basic outline below as your base warm-up routines and then add to it as needed to cover any individual requirements you have (i.e. problems or weakness in an area).  

Before An Easy Or Long Run - Dynamic Warm-up Routine
1.  Standing High Knees Lifts - slowly march in place bring your knees up so that your thigh is parallel with the ground - 10-12 lifts for each leg
2.  Standing Butt Kicks - standing in place alternately bring your heel up and back (with thigh staying in place) towards your buttocks - 10-12 lifts for each leg
3.  Leg Swings - holding a wall, bench or partner for balance, gently swing your leg forward and backward while keeping it mostly straight. This should not be a violent or over exaggerated movement - 10-12 swings each leg
4.  Cross Over Leg Swings - holding a wall, bench or partner for balance, gently swing your leg back and forth, side to side, across the front of your body  while keeping it mostly straight. This should not be a violent or over exaggerated movement - 10-12 swings each leg
5.  Walking Karaoke - this is a sideways walk alternating with your lead leg crossing over in front of your body - 10-12 steps per leg (face the opposite direction but go the smae direction to work the other leg).
6.  Ankle Rolls -  while standing, place your toe on the ground behind you with your heel straight up in the air - make 10-12 circles with your heel (leaving your toe in place on the ground) on each leg.

Before A Quality Stress Workout Or Race
1.  The Dynamic Warm-Up Routine described above
2.  Easy warm-up run - length depends on individual factors - with the last 90 seconds done at a up-tempo pace (LT to AT pace) in order to stir up the aerobic enzymes and prime the aerobic engine for the workout/race.
3.  Any light drills or strides as needed or if needed to feel ready to roll for the workout/race

Keep all warm-up activities dynamic in nature (i.e moving) as static stretching can temporarily weaken the muscles - not what you want before exercising them.

The cool-down has 2 main purposes depending on what type of run or workout it follows.  Following an easy run it is an opportunity to stretch the muscles when they are warm and pliable and receptive to the stretching.  This helps the body attain and maintain a proper range of motion in all running related muscles, joints and tendons.  Following a stress workout or race (speed, stamina or endurance) our cool-down flushes the muscles with new blood flow, carrying away and "junk" accumulated in the workout and helps to jump start the recovery process.  The cool-down is your first step in the recovery process after stress workouts and races.  

Similar to warm-ups, what is needed from a cool-down routine can be an individual thing, so my recommendation is to use the routines described below as your base and then add to them as needed to address any individual issues/needs.  

After An Easy Run - Static Stretching Routine
1. Walking (2-5 mins) - great opportunity to start rehydrating/refueling
2. Calf Wall Stretch - using a wall, post or partner to stretch the calves by pushing gently against it while driving our rear heel towards the ground - 20-30 seconds on each leg
3. Sped Leg Stretch - with legs straight (slightly bent - never locked out) spread them a comfortable width apart (past you shoulder width but not straining) and bend upper body downward, stretching in middle, towards left leg and toward right leg 20-30 seconds each.
4. Together Hamstring Stretch - standing with legs together straightened (slightly bent - never completely locked out), bend at the waist and reach down towards the ground and hold for 20-30 seconds. 
5. Standing Quad Stretch - start straight, with feet should width, bend one knee and gently pull heel back towards buttocks (straight back) while keeping thigh perpendicular with the ground, and hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat with other leg. 
6. Cross Over Glute Stretch - seated on the ground with legs straight out in front of you, bend one leg and place foot on far side of opposite knee, twist upper body towards the side of the bent leg and hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat with opposite leg. 
7. Raised Lunge Stretch - start by standing a short stride away from a bench, chair or bumper of a car, place one foot on the bench, keeping the other leg straight foot on the ground, slowly lunge forward towards the raised foot and hold for 20-30 seconds and then repeat with opposite leg. 

After A Quality Stress Workout or Race
1.  Walking (2-5 mins) - great opportunity to start rehydrating/refueling
2.  Easy jogging - duration depend on length of workout/race and individual level of mileage.
3.  Light and limited range dynamic movements or gentle rolling as needed 

After An Endurance Stress Workout (Long Run)
1.  Walking (2-5 mins) - great opportunity to start rehydrating/refueling
2.  Light and limited range dynamic movements or gentle rolling as needed 

Note:  We do not want to do any hard or significant static stretching immediately after a stress workout or race as highly fatigued muscle are easier to strain as they are weakened and the sensory feedback they provide is compromised for a period of time. 

While the routines above are short and simple and only take a few minutes to do, the consistent use of them before and after your runs will make a big difference in how you feel on your runs and in reducing the likelihood of injury in just a short time. It is a great 5-10 minute investment of your training time.  Ingrain these into your running routine to the point it comes as second nature, so that without even thinking you automatically launch into your dynamic warm-up routine before runs and go through your cool-down protocol afterwards.   It will help you get the most out of the work your do in your runs.