Our running club’s monthly time trial is just under 5 miles on undulating roads. Runners who take part will typically warm up for 1 mile maximum, most do no more than half that distance and many will step out of the car almost straight on to the start line. This, despite an awareness of the importance of warming up.
I remember a few years ago doing an experiment with some runners regarding warming up before running. I was part of a small group of 3 who ran 15 miles before the same time trial. Unsurprisingly, there were no personal records from this little group on that day. However, it was a real surprise to all of us how close to our normal times we ran.
So, if 15 miles is a little excessive, and zero is not really enough, how long should our warm up be?
For most people, I suspect it’s a lot more than they think.
At the moment, I need to be a little creative with my own training. With a little one due anytime now, I don’t really want to stray too far from the house. Today’s run of 10 miles was run in two laps around a regular route. The plan was to run the first lap easy, then run the second lap at a least a minute per mile faster. The run proved to be a revelation to me (yes, I still get these runs after more than 20 years of running).
Why? This route is familiar because over the last 4 years I’ve run it 40 times. Quite often I run it as a recovery or easy run and sometimes a make a bit of an effort and use it as a time trial. But, despite the 5-mile warm up, only once have I run it quicker than I did yesterday, in fact recent efforts have been around 2 minutes slower.
If you have a reasonable endurance base, it seems that a 5-mile warm up has little negative effect on performance, and could in fact lead some runners to post better race times (apart from at marathon distance, naturally).
I am not suggesting that you do a 5-mile warm up before you race, merely that it might be worthwhile to examine your warming up procedure, and don’t be too cautious with the duration. There are, of course, other exercises that should be part of a warm up too, but don’t be scared of running a few miles before the ‘off’ —you might make some interesting discoveries too; let us know by your comments.