One of the most important pieces of my training are the speed workouts. I usually run two of these a week. Sometimes these are hill repeats, sometimes intervals on a track and other times fartlek-style sessions. By far the most important part of each speed session is the slow 20 minutes at the start. This is my warm up and active stretching time.
I began working more on stretching and warming up this season and I’ve been amazed by the results. Apart from a couple of niggles when I’ve had to rest for 1-2 days, I’ve been injury-free all season.
This is in stark contrast to my last two seasons when I was regularly out with calf problems, shin injuries and pulled quad muscles for a couple of weeks at a time. I am convinced that the change in my stretching/warming up routine has been the biggest factor.
The recipe is pretty simple. 10 minute warmup jog, more if I have time. Then 10 minutes performing a set routine of active stretches, as recommended by Sean Williams on his coaching website. It includes active moves for the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calfs and more. Then finish up with some quick sprints and then I’m ready to go.
Last season I would do a much more unplanned warmup. Sometimes I would jog 2-4km and then start the session. Other times I would focus on static stretches. If really pushed for time I would just dive in straight out the door and usually this is when I’d get injured!
It has now become such an ingrained habit of allowing 20 minutes on the front of every fast workout. I believe it is this practice of going slow before I can go fast that has kept the injuries at bay.
Other athletes are also following this principle. There is a new technology that has been recently released which is a wearable footballer tracking device. Newcastle United have been using this to make sure their players don’t go faster than they should in training.
I think most people can achieve the same effect with a GPS watch or phone app, or even just by being aware of your own pace. But the principal of properly warming up before doing any intense workout applies to all levels of athletes, professionals and amateurs.
I always knew it was a good thing to warm up. Yet it has been the process of having a rigid structure this season that has helped warming up to become a habit that I have actually stuck with every session.