Last Updated on November 16, 2012 by Jimson Lee
Here’s my take on the warm up:
Do whatever you have do to get ready when the gun goes off.
If there are drills you prefer that are not in my repertoire, that’s fine, go ahead and do it.
If you need 90 minutes instead of 60, that’s fine, go ahead.
If you need a massage, well, hopefully your physio is on staff! Otherwise, grab a foam roller!
My goal for a warm up is that your blood vessels and capillaries and all the surrounding neurons and muscles are at an optimal state when that gun goes off. Including delays.
If you have to spend and extra 20 minutes in the control room because of stadium delays, then you want to be sure you haven’t cooled down enough to perform sub-optimal. Or cramp for that matter. Or heaven forbid, pull a muscle! That’s why our warm up, which includes drills for the neural response, takes between 45 and 60 minutes.
The primary reason for our warm up is
stretching checking the muscles are at optimal length (i.e. loose, not tight) and to stay at that state when the gun goes off.
If you just ran a preliminary round, or ran a 400 just prior to your 200m, you really don’t need much of a warm-up. Maybe a good shake out massage, and that’s it. That’s why I love the 4x100m relay at a twilight meet as the first event of the program. It’s a fun team event and you’ll be loose for your main event. Otherwise, do an all out 150m 20 minutes before your race.
Less is More?
This research was performed on sprint cyclist, not running sprinters, but there’s a lot of truth to this. Basically, it found that a longer warm-up usually leads to greater muscle fatigue than a shorter warm-up.
Here is the video from CBC television (Facebook and RSS readers, click here):
Here is the article from the Calgary Herald:
A University of Calgary researcher suggests less is more when it comes to the warm-up regimen of some athletes involved in sprint sports.
Elias Tomaras tested the theory among a group of sprint track cyclists over a period of two years and found that a longer period of preparation usually leads to greater muscle fatigue than a shorter warm-up.
In talking with trainers and coaches, Tomaras and his group discovered traditional warm-ups lasted around one to two hours in duration before a competition, which left them scratching their heads.
"We were somewhat perplexed by that," Tomaras said. "It seemed really long. A lot of coaches you’ll talk to will say, ‘This is what I did as an athlete.’
"It worked for someone else before and it just gets passed down the line -for example, this is what this Olympic medallist did so this is what I’m going to do."
So, in the first study of its kind, the University of Calgary graduate set out to find if warm-ups have a detrimental effect before sprint competitions.
Using track-cyclists as their guinea pigs, they compared the muscle-force production between a shorter 15-minute warm-up with a more traditional, longer one that lasted around 50 minutes.
The shorter, experimental warm-up was performed at a lower intensity ending with a single sprint; the higher was performed with a graduated intensity that ranged from 60 to 95 per cent of a maximum heart rate before ending with several "allout" sprints.
Following the warm-ups, the study tested the athlete’s power and fatigue.
Tomaras said immediately after and for the following 30 minutes, the shorter warm-up resulted in significantly less muscle fatigue and a 6.2 per cent increase in peak power.
To put that in perspective?
"An athlete would have to train for years to achieve a six per cent improvement in their peak power output," he said. "The difference between the two outputs is substantial."
Tomaras, also an exercise physiologist with the Calgary Fire Department, said the theory can apply to many sprint sports.
It proved interesting to Calgary based track coach Brenda Van Tighem, who coaches 2012 Olympic hopefuls and track sprinters Sam Effah and Amonn Nelson.
She says although warm-ups vary from athlete to athlete, a typical warm-up for her runners is about 25 to 30 minutes to get the nervous system fired up including dynamic/ active stretching.
"There are always questions about warm-up, it seems," said Van Tighem. "Everyone knows that a dynamic warm-up is important in terms of leg-swings, mobility exercises, and stride-outs to work on technical running form.
"But the length of a warm-up is a good thing to be looking at. An hour is a long time, from my experience. I think we would agree with (trying to make it shorter)."
Tomaras noted the study tested only one, 30 second burst of exercise after each of the two warm-ups.
However, he added, most athletes will hit the track, ice, or turf more than once in a specific performance. For example, in a short-track speedskating competition, there may be a number of heats in one day.
"Usually, they’ll have multiple competitions and multiple warm-ups and cool-downs," said Tomaras, who recently had the study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. "So, you can imagine, one might be fatigued or impaired in a given day."
paul graham says
In my cross country running days, our coach had us do a 1hr+ warm-up. We’d start jogging at 6.45 and would start the session at 8.15pm. One season we’d do 5 x 150m @ 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 100% prior to racing, i remember being a little out of breathe when they called on your marks. Before ‘speed workouts’ (or what he called speed workouts) in training, we’d do 2 laps of bend sprints -jog straights and 2 laps of straight sprints – jog bends. In hind sight that’s crazy.
At meets i see people/rivals starting their warm-up 1.5 hours before the scheduled start, and i’m checking my watch and phone to make sure the time is correct. That always makes me nervous beforehand. Some athletes will train really well and burn-up in the race, this can sometimes be explained by this over-preparation strategy employed by coaches and athletes – Shame!
paul graham says
Out of interest, what is your ideal warm-up before a sprint race?
Jimson Lee says
as a disclaimer, MY PERSONAL warmup is different than the rest of my athletes. It just works for me, maybe I’m just old school. I’ll write a blog post about it. But I do like my 150m at 95% 20 minutes before my race. That’s usually enough time to get into the call room and chill.
Jimson Lee says
the other thing is I don’t like getting a massage BEFORE my race. I like to have my muscles with a certain “tone” or tonus or elastic energy. Again, it’s a personal thing. Then again, I don’t run 43 point for 400 meters either.
paul graham says
Me too, a massage turns my legs to jelly. Foam rolling has helped me out at times though, when running heats e.t.c.
When I was in HS & college I found that a long warm up just made me tired. I found that a short jog, less than a mile and then some quick sprints 30 or so minutes before my race was enough. I also didn’t like to stretch too much as I liked a little tightness, I couldn’t imagine getting a massage before a race. Now that I’m older and getting back into racing shape, I have found that I need a more comprehensive warm up of about 15 minutes before I even consider putting forth a hard effort. I never understood doing a 3 mile warm up for a 800m/400m race.
When I ran in college, the prevailing warmup was a mile, 30 minutes stretching, then drills and strideouts. I always noticed that jelly feeling in my legs after the stretching, but hey, coach said to do all those stretches so it must be right. In retrospect, that feeling of weakness and lost power was not my imagination. I am now a firm believer in the short warmup. And so far, no injuries. One other side effect of a long warmup is loss of focus and motivation for the ACTUAL workout, at least for myself.