A brief thought on warm ups

I originally wrote this post in the summer, so ignore the references to ‘on Wednesday’ etc.

On Wednesday I set a 5km season’s best.

Other than training, I’ve been thinking about what I did differently. I’m especially thinking about what I did differently compared to my shocker of a race a couple of months ago where I ended up pulling up half way round and jogging in.

I think the key difference is my warm up. I’ve written before about how I think I sabotaged that race by warming up too quickly, and over too great a distance. Wednesday’s race adds credence to that theory.

In my recent mile race, I jogged at a very easy pace to the track (about two miles) then waited for some time before having to race, with a few strides and accelerations, plus some bouncing, in the couple of minutes before the start.

I tried a similar approach on Wednesday. Very easy jogging for about a mile, with about ten minutes of rest before the start, minus some strides and accelerations and a bit of bouncing just before the gun.

I think this works.

Why?

The energy use profile of a 5km race is that the first few minutes are predominantly anaerobic, as your body goes from a standing start to what is a quick pace. Once you settle into the race, the aerobic system takes over, giving way to anaerobic again before the hopeful sprint finish.

As such, you don’t want to be out of breath before you start, or you will already be drawing on your anaerobic capacity. So a rest period just before the start gives you a chance to maximise that capacity.

Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist, so this could all be bollocks, but it feels right to me.

But you do want warmed up legs and a warmed up brain, so the easy jogging gives your body and mind an opportunity to prepare. Those strides and bounces are there to try and get your muscle tension right to cope with the quick pace. I also suspect they may help recruit a wide range of muscle fibres to add to those warmed up by the slow running.

Again, this could be bollocks, but given last night’s success, I’m going to continue following this approach, as I certainly felt ready to race as I stood on the start line. Plus, other than a slight slowing of the pace through the middle part of the race, I never felt like I was so far into anaerobic territory that I couldn’t sustain the effort to the end.

Which, to me, seems like a good thing if you want to run a fast 5km race.

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