The first mile is a liar
There is no nice way to put it. Most people have bad running habits and as a consequence, bad running form.
Let’s do a little test of honesty here. Hands up if you have a specific warm-up you perform before you go out for your run. Even amongst avid runners, the percentage of people that actually do a proper warm-up is most likely less than 5%. And just to be clear, shaking your legs out and swinging your arms back and forth does not count as a warm up.
A warm up is an essential part of your training and it will make your run so much more enjoyable. Take 5 to 10 minutes to go through the phases of a solid warm-up routine and your body will reward you with a run that feels much better and probably is faster too.
When you warm up with a good routine, you prime the body for the activity to come. You activate the right muscle groups and get the body (and mind) in the right state. Consistently applying a warm-up routine will do wonders for your running form and longevity of your running career.
Ever heard the saying “the first mile is a liar”? That is because your body takes a bit of time to transition from rest to activity. You can't expect your first mile to be as good as your second, third or fourth if you did not take the time and effort to transition from your inactive to active state.
A good warm-up routine consists of 4 phases. The first phase is a general transition phase from inactivity to being active. Gradually let your body get used to the work that you are about to do. When you are a morning runner, and like to jump out of bed and put your running shoes on straight away, you need to let your body get used to the transition from rest to activity. A very gentle easy jog will prepare the body for the workout you have planned.
The second phase of a good warm-up routine involves dynamic stretches. Rather than simply lengthening your muscle fibers through static stretching (which diminishes elasticity in the short run), dynamic stretches mimic the running motion you are about to perform and start to increase the blood flow to the muscles to prepare them for activity.
After your dynamic stretches, you want to perform some running-specific activation drills. This is arguably the most important part of the warm-up as this is where you have the opportunity to address the specific flaws in your personal running form. With activation drills, you target weaknesses in your specific running form such as hip flexor activation or the triple leg extension to make sure you get these flaws in your running form ironed out before the actual workout starts. There are a near infinite number of activation drills you can choose from. Knowing which ones are most important for you is something you can learn through a video analysis or an individual coaching session.
At the end of your warm-up, when you have done your gentle loosening up, your dynamic stretches and your personalized activation drills, run a few strides or pick-ups over 50 to 100m. This will get your heart rate up and make it easier for the body to handle a rise in heart rate if you already spiked it, albeit for a very short time.
Now you are ready to start your run! If you want to see an example of the four phases of the warm-up, check out this warm-up routine before you go out for your next run.
Run well, run often
It is an obvious truth but an often overlooked one: One has to practice running in order to remain a runner. Add a proper warm-up to your running routine. Find out which activation drills are best for you and consistently practice them to increase your running efficiency and running form.
Would you be able to run with better form if you had the tools to unlearn some of your old running patterns and re-learn how to run through the Effortless Running principles? Visit the website www.effortlessrunning.com for more information or download the FREE Effortless Running magazine.
Erik Böhm - Effortless Running - August 2021