What if I told you that you can run faster without changing the way you train or race? It is a great feeling to run a Personal Best. Starting out as a new runner, PBs come thick and fast, but the better you get, the less often you beat your PB. It means you are no longer a beginner and you should be proud of your progress. But, you still want to run faster. Whether it is your local ParkRun or any run for that matter, this simple tip will make you run faster and quite possibly break your PB the next time out.
You are already faster than you think
You put in the training so deserve to run faster, but is something holding you back from your best on race day? Most runners are overly conservative in their warm up and many barely do more than a few minutes of jogging and a static stretch or two. The more studious athlete might run a few miles to the event, but what if there were a better way to get in exactly the right state to run your PB.
How to warm up for your PB
There is more to a great warm up than a light jog and a few quad stretches. I would like to share with you my warm up that you can do before any race. Try this next time you go for a run and you might just run your new PB. The problem with the typical runner’s warm up is that the duration and intensity are not specific to the hard effort they are about to demand of their body. Your movements and stretches must reflect the speed and coordination that your PB running effort requires. With this in mind, your new warm up is going to be specific in length, intensity and in the way you move in order to get your body ready to run fast from the first stride.
As I write this it is the dead of winter, so I recommend that you dress warmly and have a strategy to strip off before you head to the start line. Ideally, have a buddy in support to take your gear from you or, if you are solo, wear your ragged old tracksuit, jumpers and jacket so you can stash them somewhere without too much concern if they go walkabout. Read my recent winter running blog for more on kit choices. Now, let’s get to it.
Move Like a Runner
I do these before every run and especially on race day. This is a series of running specific movements that reflect the exact movements required to run fast. They switch you on physically and mentally, improving your coordination and balance they set you up to be at your best. The following can be done on the spot or moving forwards. Complete this warm up 20-30 minutes before race start time. You will get quicker as you become familiar with the routine.
Stand tall and run on the spot, when ready, flick your heels to kick your backside. Maintain a tall posture, avoid leaning forwards and try to keep your knees back. Perform 20 then resume running on the spot for 20 steps, do this 3 times.
Pull your foot straight up from the ground, your thigh should come up to horizontal. Try to do three per second to hit 180 beats per minute, an excellent tempo to fire up both muscles and nerves. Perform 20 then resume running on the spot for 20 steps, do this 3 times.
Straight Leg Kicks
Up on your toes, just like the bum kicks and high knees, kick straight ahead. Kicking from the hips, keep your knees fairly straight and aim for the same quick pitter-patter tempo of your rapid high knees. Perform 20 then resume running on the spot for 20 steps, do this 3 times.
As a rule, static stretching puts your muscles to sleep and dynamic stretching wakes them up.
Again, you can do these walking forwards or on the spot. Keeping your knees straight, reach down as if to touch your toes, feeling a stretch up the back of your legs. Immediately stand up straight and repeat. Do 10 of these with your feet in parallel, 10 with your heels together and your toes out and 10 toes together and heels out.
Do a bum kick and catch your foot behind you, pulling it into your backside and immediately releasing it. You should feel the stretch in your quads/front of your thigh. Tense your buttocks when you catch your foot to increase the stretch. Alternate legs to complete 20 stretches ()10 on each leg.
Step into a lunge position as pictured below. Shift your weight forwards onto the front foot to feel a stretch in the hip flexor muscles/very top of your thigh. Immediately relax back and repeat. In kneeling, simply do a long lunge and put your back knee of the floor. Shift your weight forward from this position as above. Tense your buttocks again to increase the stretch. Perform 10 on each leg.
The purpose of your warm up run is to get your body ready for the intense race effort ahead. You need to increase your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing to deliver oxygen at at race intensity. If your warm up is too light, your body will be playing catch up. This causes you to fatigue early and is going to kill your PB attempt. If you think you can warm up into the race, you will not run a fast time. For the 5k, I recommend a 2-3 kilometre build-up run. Start at your normal easy aerobic pace for the first kilometre. At this point, start to gradually build your speed every couple of hundred metres so that you run the last 800-1000m at your planned race pace. It is that simple.
Now you are ready to run your PB
If you really care about breaking your PB or even just running faster, do this warm up. Warming up on the run is a lazy plan and increases your risk of injury and puts a major limit on your performance. Incorporate this warm up routine into your weekly training so that it is familiar on race day. For an easy aerobic run, complete the technique drills and dynamic stretches and head out.
Do you have any favourite warm up drills that work for you? Give this new routine a go and let me know when you break your PB.