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Q&A Danny Mackey: How a warmup can help you race better

What are the benefits of a harder warm-up before a race or hard workout?

This is a crude example, but think of how you feel when you roll out of bed and go for an hour run. When do you feel best? The first 10 minutes or last 10 minutes? In a workout, do you feel best the first 400 or the 3rd 400? In a warm-up, you are trying to take that principle and apply it to racing. You want your sympathetic nervous system to be primed and ready to go from the gun.

What does a typical warm-up entail?

1) Start with some simple “activation drills” and exercises to use the nervous system pathways in a static and low impact environment. This ensures that before you actually start jogging the running muscles can fire correctly and be coordinated.

2) Easy running: at a low heart rate running for 15-20 minutes, this gets your metabolism going, blood flow up, and heart rate up.

3) Pick up at tempo pace: get your heart rate closer to the metabolic pathway that you will need to use in a race.

4) Dynamic stretches and drills: a little more explosive, getting the nervous system elevated to a higher level because of the all-out nature of a race.

5) Longer strides at race pace, with enough time for HR to lower before the start of the race: used in conjunction with everything else to get the breathing rate high, and the nervous system elevated to a race level for a brief amount of time. It helps to get your central governor- your brain- ready for a race effort.

What is something people often overlook in a warm-up?

Especially before a race, people are often warming up on a nearly empty stomach. Something simple like a swig of a sports drink or an energy gu packet can keep the blood sugar up. Caffeine is a stimulant and chewing a caffeinated gum such as RunGum as you start your warm-up can be beneficial as well.

What the most common mistake people can make in a warm-up?

Misjudging the time. You want to have a similar routine as you do in practice. If you are not flexible and listening to what your body is telling you, it is easy to warm-up too much or too little. Conditions (like temperature) and how you are feeling (what your week has been like) can easily change what needs to be taken away or added into the warm-up plan. Focus on how you feel and listen to what your body is telling you that you need.

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