Think You Know How To Warmup? Chances Are You’re Doing It Wrong!
How do you warmup before you run?
Do you walk to the end of the block, then go? Maybe you do some obligatory stretching maneuvers, then run? If you’re like most runners, chances are your not warming up enough.
I know I wasn’t.
For the past several years, my pre-run routine consisted primarily of throwing my leg up on a railing, maybe a couple of leg swings, short walk then just start running. I was smart enough to do a mile or so of easy running before beginning speed work, but not much else.
In my ramp up to my marathon last fall, I was running more than ever and ignoring some lingering pain. Although I set a PR, those lingering issues caught up with me a few months later.
Trying Something New
If I want to run without pain, I need to either a.) run shorter distances, or b.) better prepare my body to handle the long stuff. I’m opting for b, so adding strength and conditioning exercises have become a regular part of my training.
In my hopes of qualifying for Boston this year, I looked at a variety of ways to improve the “non-running” aspects of my training. Core work, sleep, and nutrition were natural places to look. It wasn’t until I began reading more about warming up and dynamic stretching that things changed.
Importance of Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching is stretching that involves motion. It’s intended to imitate the sorts of movements you’ll be doing during your activity. Static stretching (holding a stretch for a given length of time – what most runners do pre-run), has been proven not to help (and in some cases may harm you). It doesn’t prepare your body to run.
Most of us spend far too much of our days sitting. As a result, we often have tight hip flexors. This limits our range of motion and other muscles must compensate, potentially causing other issues down the road.
As Dr. Ty has mentioned, hip flexibility is important to avoiding injury. One of the keys to efficient running is creating enough range of motion in your hip flexor to get your leg to move back behind you before your toes push off. A great dynamic stretch to imitate this motion is the lunge.
I have found that warming up with something like the lunge matrix has been tremendously helpful. Not only does it better prepare me to run, it’s also strengthening my core and other muscles that might be getting lazy.
What is the Lunge Matrix
The lunge matrix, based on physical therapist Gary Gray’s work, is most commonly associated with elite running coach Jay Johnson. He describes it as “…quintessential, elemental, fundamental… to staying healthy as a runner.” Having done this for the past few months, I can definitely feel a positive difference.
The lunge matrix is a series of 5 lunges, done 5 times on each leg for a total of 50 lunges. It causes your body to move in all three planes of motion. The idea is to wake up your whole body before running. The three planes are,
- The sagittal plane (forward and backward)
- The transverse plane (rotational plane – like swinging a golf club)
- The frontal plane (side to side).
I reached out to Coach Johnson to learn more about why this particular series of movements, in three planes, is helpful for runners. He graciously wrote back and said,
“…when you move in all three planes of motion before you run, you are simply running more athletically. Example would be that the abductor and adductor muscles are working at a high level in the side lunge. You are using those muscles in the warm-up and then they are ready to go once you’re running.”
He also sent me a link to a more scholarly article that talks about the importance of integrating the planes of the body.
Do the Lunge Matrix as Your Warmup!
Before you run, do this lunge matrix! It literally takes 3 minutes and only good things can come from it. To make sure you’re doing it correctly, watch this video. Memorize it or bookmark it on your smart phone for reference before every run.
It gets you warmed up while also strengthen your core. Make sure you’re still doing your easy jog before any workouts.