How should you warm up for before you run?

There are numerous ways to warm up for your daily runs.  Those following the latest research on running are aware that static stretching before your run (touching your toes, etc.) has shown static to be either ineffective or counterproductive.

What is the alternative to static stretching?  Thankfully, runners, coaches and PT’s  interested in the progression of the sport have worked to create new and more effective warm ups.  For those who have yet to try these new types of warm ups they are called “dynamic warm ups” and involve movements instead of holding poses with the muscles you are going to use.  Below are two of my favorite exercises which I have combined, and modified, into my own personalized warm up.

The first is from Coach Jay Johnson, whose website is a wealth of knowledge for running nerds looking for great interviews, stretches, strengthening activities, speed drills and much more.  I have heard Jay refer to this warm up as both the “Lunge Warm Up” and the “Lunge Matrix.”  The Lunge Matrix just sounds cooler and so that is what I often refer to it as.  Some of your muscles will likely feel alive and awake the first few times you do this since it might be the first time they’ve been used in many years (if ever).

Jay’s warm up is an excellent warm up not only for its use as a warm up and strengthening tool but also because it is time efficient.  Many of us struggle to find the time to run and might be asking, “How am I going to find time to add something else on top of the time needed for running?”  This warm up is brief enough to easily implement it to the start of your daily run without worrying about adding too much extra time to your daily time spent running.   It is also simple enough to easily memorize after a few times through.

Jay is constantly looking to upgrade this warm up.  My own issue over the past year continues to be tightness in my shoulders and neck while running and so the movements below complete the other half of my ideal warm up:  the upper body portion.  The movements below are from stretching guru Phil Wharton and are the best compliment to the lower body exercises from the first video that I’ve found so far.

I am going to post a video of my version of these two warm up activities in the near future.  Please leave a comment or question below about what has been your most effective warm up routine(s)?  What would you like to see in a warm up routine?  How important is the amount of time spent warming up to you?

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Why failure is good (in life and running)

It is human nature to fail at something and get frustrated and give up.  There are countless forms of failure in running (not hitting a goal time, not hitting a weight loss goal, getting injured, etc.).  How can those things possibly be good?

Photo from Arnold Inuyaki
How did Michael Jordan learn from failure?

Some people never understand how failure can be good and until recently I was someone who didn’t really understand this either.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

We must look at failure as learning experiences in everything we do.  When we fail at something we must reevaluate how we could have done something not just differently but more effectively.  In running this might mean looking back after a race and asking why you fell off your goal pace halfway through?  (Possibly not enough work at goal pace, overtraining, etc.).

Not only should failure not be looked at negatively but it must be embraced and used as a tool to reassess yourself.  These are learning experiences and having a positive outlook on them can change your worldview.

Write down your runs in a journal and look back once in a while at your comments on each run.  What could you have done better?  Sure, this is a hassle but the cost-to-benefit ratio is worth it if you know what factors of your training and life to monitor and change as needed.

What have you failed at?  In hindsight, what could you have learned from it?

Update: While attending the ICE Conference today in St. Charles, Illinois I was able to view one of Diana Laufenberg‘s presentation. Her presentation was on the topic of using failure as a tool and she played this Honda commercial about learning from failure and I found it worth adding to this post. You should watch this. After watching please leave a comment below as to how you can use this in life, business, sports, education, etc.

Sample week of 5k training

Many of us have experimented with a number different running schedules while training for a 5k.  In my opinion there is definitely not one schedule that is going to work for everyone and to some extent there are multiple schedules that are going to benefit an individual runners.  The order of workouts can be tinkered with but most runners are going to benefit from running at a variety of efforts throughout the week and particularly hitting certain paces that are related to their goal race.

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If someone were training for a 5k and were nearing their target race they would be best served by hitting as close to goal pace as possible and there are a number of ways to do that and also hit on all their systems but a sample week that will get most runners close to this is below.

Monday: Easy run + strides (distance will vary based on the runner but pace should be comfortable)

Tuesday: Intervals or tempo run (intervals are anywhere from 200 to 1200 at goal race pace, rest should be slighter longer than half the time the repetition took).  A 10 minute warmup and cooldown should be included. Tempo run is 20-40 minutes at a moderately hard pace.

Wednesday: Easy day again

Thursday: Do the opposite of what you did Tuesday

Friday: Easy + hill sprints (3-10 x 6-10 sprints uphill with full recovery between)

Saturday: Race or steady state run (similar to tempo run but more relaxed)

Sunday:  Long run of 90 minutes, give or take

Now, if the Saturday race were a big one I’d push the workouts to Monday and Wednesday for an additional easy day before the race.  There is obviously a lot of things not mentioned here such as stretching, nutrition, cooldown, strength and core work, etc. but a skeleton is in place with the week above.  It is nothing fancy and improving as a runner doesn’t depend on fancy, it is usually built on steady aerobic improvement over a long time coupled with adequate strength building to protect yourself from injury.  Adding time and mileage to your easy days over a long period of time is the way for steady growth.

Thoughts on what has best worked for you would be greatly appreciated in the comments.

Coaching services

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Despite reading many years of worth of Runner’s World and Running Times magazines, reading a number of highly recommended running books, and reading countless online running websites I was still unsatisfied with my rate of improvement.  I was particularly unsatisfied considering the amount of time I spent computing formulas for the “perfect” running schedule.

Is there a “perfect” running schedule?

Last year I began working with a running coach and have been extremely pleased with the results both in terms of the ease of mind it has given me, the confidence, and the independent analysis that I needed.  Having gone through this experience has validated some of the information I read in many books and magazines as being sound and worthy of passing along to others.

Train smarter, not harder!

I currently use all of the lessons I have learned over the past 20 years through trial and error, reading, listening/learning to coach a number of runners currently.  These runners come from all ages and ability levels and I will be relaying some of their success stories in the coming days and weeks.  I have tried to help save them the hassle of having to reinvent the wheel that so many of us have had to do before realizing how to make the best of our training to avoid injury, improve our health, and run faster and farther.

The time to start is now!

For the month of January I will be offering monthly coaching for runners at the rate of $59.99 per month.  This coaching will include a customized running schedule based on your history, current ability and goals.  We will work together to asess this and set up an appropriate schedule.

To initiate your free consultation please click here if you are ready to be the best YOU this year.