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Warm up tips for race day

Jon-Erik Kawamoto teahes you how to optimize your pre-race warm up for best results

If you’ve been in the exercise world long enough, you have definitely been told to stretch at one point or another. Static stretching, which involves holding a muscle in a lengthened position for a given amount of time, is traditionally recommended as an activity to prepare the body for exercise, reduce risk for injury and improve joint flexibility. However, this recommendation has been studied and debated in the scientific literature as of late since research findings are conflicting.
 
Stretching and Endurance Sport Performance

A recent review paper (2014) in the Currents Sports Medicine Reports gathered 62 scientific studies that examined the effect of static stretching on exercise and sport performance. Some of the studies found a negative impact from performing static stretching prior to endurance activity, while other studies found no significant effects whatsoever. The review paper states that a consensus statement regarding the effects of static stretching on endurance activities is difficult to make from the conflicts seen in the current literature. Furthermore, it should be noted that from the studies gathered, static stretching prior to endurance activity does not show any performance benefits either.
 
In contrast, dynamic stretching involves voluntarily moving a joint through a full range of motion to momentarily lengthen muscles. Momentum may also be used to aid in lengthening the muscles into further stretch. Since this type of stretching is more active compared to static stretching, it can be hypothesized that it will better prepare runners for time trials or races. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined this idea among trained distance runners and came to the conclusion that performing dynamic stretches prior to a 30-minute time trial had no significant effect on energy cost or endurance performance. More research needs to be performed in this area before scientists can suggest the best warm-up approach for runners.
 
Wrap Up
 
In the mean time, remember, an appropriate warm-up for running should focus on preparing the mind and body for that tough workout ahead by increasing your internal body temperature and priming the cardiovascular and nervous system so they can perform at their best. A good warm-up should contribute to the development of balance, coordination, running mechanics and muscle activation. The warm-up period is a good time to perform an easy jog, running drills and short sprints. Dynamic stretches will continue to warm-up your body, but remember that static stretching has been shown to negatively affect endurance performance. Do what works best for you and make sure your warm-up does not do more harm than good by making you too tired for your workout or race.
 Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CSCS is a runner, strength coach and owner of JKConditioning in St. John’s, NL, Canada. Jon specializes in strength training endurance athletes and is currently in the middle of preparing a strength training resource for runners. Stay in touch by checking out www.JKConditioning.com. 
 
References
 
Peck, E., Chomko, G., Gaz, D.V., & Farrell, A.M. (2014). The effect of stretching on performance. Curr Sports Med Rep, 13, 3, 179-85. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000052
 
Zourdos, M.C., Wilson, J.M., Sommer, B.A., Lee, S.R., Park, Y.M., Henning, P.C., Panton, L.B., & Kim, J.S. (2012). Effects of dynamic stretching on energy cost and running endurance performance in trained male runners. J Strength Cond Res, 26, 2, 335-41. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318225bbae
 

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