| Article written on November 16th, 2016 at 10:31pm | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
Do you have a systematic pre-run routine? Incorporating an effective pre-run routine that is specific to your needs is important. This area is often completely neglected and runners wonder why they struggle through the first 15-minutes of their run, see mediocre results, and/or get injured.
Runners come in many different shapes, sizes, and ability levels. What works for you may not work for someone else because your body functions differently. That is why I want to use this article to talk about a framework that can be tailored to your specific needs rather than giving general recommendations which may or not may benefit you.
Below, I’ll talk more in-depth about the 4 most commonly overlooked components that should be included in an effective pre-run routine:
4. Reset. I can honestly say that the nervous system is not a focus for many runners. That is because it’s so easy to see value in getting stronger, faster, and more resilient, without talking about the underlying communication/feedback system in the body.
From daily stressors, such as work, family, poor diaphragmatic breathing, and exercise, the nervous system can often become “turned on” more consistently. As you move into a more sympathetic state, the body responds with increased cortisol levels, muscle tone, and stiffness. These symptoms are not ideal for successful running performance and pain-free function.
A simple drill I like to implement with many of my runners is called crocodile breathing. Proper diaphragmatic breathing can help “turn down” the nervous system and return the body back to homeostasis.
Have you ever noticed how deep breathing changes the way you feel in times of stress? With that being said, adding a breathing drill into your pre-run routine can be very beneficial to get the most out of your training.
3. Lengthen/Lubricate. Reflecting on the amount of range of motion and fluidity of movement throughout the kinetic chain is important. If there are areas that commonly feel stiff or are restricted, adding self-myofascial release, flexibility, mobility, and dynamic movements can be useful in freeing up range of motion.
Oftentimes, I hear from runners that they always feel sluggish through the first few miles. This makes complete sense when there is no focus on increasing tissue temperature and nerve conduction velocity, or lubricating the joints and lengthening surrounding soft-tissue before training.
In this step, I always advocate for knowing which joints actually have below average range of motion. Targeting these with proper flexibility and mobility drills can provide long-term benefit far beyond your training session for that day. But regardless, moving the body through a full range of motion can help reduce stiffness and significantly boost performance from the start of your run. Stop struggling through the first few miles and make them count!
2. Activate. Due to extended hours sitting each day, poor exercise selection, and repetitive, high mileage training, it’s common that certain muscles become inhibited. Inhibition is a reduced neuromuscular connection that leads to poor firing of affected muscles.
Implementing isolated, activation exercises can be very beneficial in getting inhibited muscles working. Once certain muscles don’t fire properly, other muscles compensate to pick up the slack. This often predisposes runners to increased muscle tension, tightness, and possible injury.
If you are unsure of which areas need to be targeted, applying a general strategy to activate the plantar foot, calf, gluteals, and core can be impactful. Essentially, improved function of these areas will carry over to better running efficiency and performance.
1.Locomote. The only thing left is to put your newly improved function into motion. Locomotion drills helps prime the neuromuscular system and improve coordination and timing. More often than not, runners are not completing locomotion drills before, or in addition to, their training which is actually doing them a disservice.
Crawling, skipping, bounding, and shuffling are all forms of locomotion that set the stage for an efficient running cycle. What you need to realize is that running is an advanced skill that should be progressed to properly. Incorporating the following locomotion skills can make a big impact to your running form and performance.
As you can see, incorporating a systematic pre-run routine can create huge long-term benefits in running performance and injury prevention. This framework should get you thinking about areas that you may have been neglecting for years. Now it’s time to fill in the blanks and add basic exercises that make an impact.
As an added bonus for reading this article, I want to give you my new pre-run checklist. This PDF will serve as a reminder on what areas should be included in a beneficial dynamic warm-up. I highly recommend you print it out and keep it handy before your training. Getting familiar with this framework has allowed my clients to see dramatic improvements in their running times, with such a small time commitment.
By: Garrett Mclaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART