We all know that warming up is important. It’s the key to avoiding injury and performing at your best. Still…we runners tend to be creatures of habit and there are definitely some finer points of warm-up philosophy that you may not have considered. Here are three thoughts that are well worth keeping in mind as you prepare for your next workout.
Warm-ups are critical when you cross-train. As a regular runner, you probably know just what you need to do to get loose and ready before your run. Your body knows the deal and is probably well-prepared for the physical demands of your typical workout. But what about non-typical workouts? Maybe you’re going to mix things up and go for a trail run or do some hills. Or maybe you’re jumping into a pick-up game of basketball, hitting the pool, or trying a new Pilates class. This is where you need to be careful. Cross-training puts demands on your body that are often outside of what it’s used to. Warming up thoroughly is the best way to reduce the likelihood of injury as you engage muscles in ways outside of your usual training routine. While you’re at it, it’s important to realize that since you’re using your body differently, you should be warming it up differently, too. Check out this series of posts from LiveStrong.com which give you specific warm-up routines for different activities, from swimming to basketball to dancing. Don’t let that softball game at the company picnic turn into an injury you’re going to regret.
When the weather is hot, warm up smart. We’ve talked before about how important it is to adjust your warm-up in the face of cold weather. It’s just as important to have a weather-appropriate approach to warming up when it’s hot outside, too — and the answer is definitely not to skip the warm-up altogether. While hot weather does mean it should be easier to get your body up to operating temperature, it doesn’t mean you can let the sun do the work for you. The heat outside will only warm you up from the outside in. To be ready to perform and avoid injury, you need to heat yourself up from the inside out. Runningtimes.com has some great tips for getting warm quickly without wearing yourself out, pointing out that you can get loose and ready without wearing yourself out before the workout even begins. Especially if you have a race day in your future, it’s well worth the read.
Workouts vary. Your warm-up should, too. Whether it’s focused and vigorous or quick and casual, a lot of us go through pretty much the same warm-up routine regardless of the workout to follow. That might not seem like a big deal (warm is warm, right?) but if you think about it, it’s pretty intuitive that different workouts should be supported by different warm-ups. There’s a great, detailed post over at runnersworld.com that lays out specific routines appropriate for various scenarios. An everyday run, for example, might warrant a simple build-up in intensity over a half mile or so. Speed work on the other hand — like high-intensity sprints — is better preceded by more vigorous activities like quick sprints and focused circuit work. They’ve also got some good advice for treadmill workouts and even race day.