Part 1 – Tips and resources from Mark Sexton, Chartered Physiotherapist
Mark Sexton MISCP MCSP Sexton Physiotherapy and Acupuncture Clinic
The Calcutta Run is a great event, accessible to all at any level of fitness. It is great to have a goal to increase our fitness in the spring, and the 5k and 10k distances allow those who wish to improve (or begin) running enjoy a preparing in the weeks ahead.
Don’t be put off if you think your fitness isn’t up to it, or if running isn’t for you; the 5k is walkable by most, even with no formal training, and Calcutta Run day is great fun.
Much of the advice and coaching that I give to rehabilitate and prevent sports injury centre on the key skills of warm up, cool down and muscle conditioning.
I have summarised this advice here, along with links to YouTube demonstrations of some key exercises.
I will follow this in the next blog with advice and what to do if you are injured. In the meantime, if in doubt about an injury, get it checked – early assessment and treatment of injuries speed recovery, and gets you back to exercise faster.
Above all, enjoy your exercise, and progress at a rate that is comfortable for you.
• Take it gradually
• Avoid the ‘terrible too’s – doing too much, too soon, too quickly!
• Follow the 10% rule – build your weekly mileage or time by no more than 10% per week
• Listen to your body
• The body likes consistency in training, this is what training plans do
• Get good footwear
• Spend time on Warm Up, Cool Down and Stretching
• Exercise should not be painful
What is a warm up?
When we exercise, our body changes to be able to perform that exercise, compared to its normal resting or sedentary state. If we engage in exercise too quickly that is too intense, we risk injury to muscles, tendons or joints. We can minimise the risk of injury by doing a warm up.
The aim is to move all the joints of the arm, leg and torso in a way that is gentle and appropriate for your level of fitness to prepare it for the activity you are about to do. The warm up should not at any time be painful or more vigorous than your exercise plan.
The keys to good warm up:
• Comfortable, pain-free movement of the whole body.
• Appropriate to your level of fitness, experience and overall health.
• Gradually increase the intensity and range of movement towards the intensity of the exercise you are about to do.
This allows our blood flow, muscles, joints and nerves to be prepared for exercise.
How long should a warm up take?
This is variable – it depends on the intensity of the training session or exercise in which we are about to engage.
Elite athletes might spend 40 minutes or more just warming up and getting their bodies ready for the training session or event!
This is not practical or necessary for most leisure running.
Bear in mind that it takes your body about 20 minutes to warm up and 20 minutes (or longer) to cool down.
An Ideal Warm Up for Runners
An Ideal warm up will prepare your body for the performance you are going to demand in your training session. You can adapt this plan to your fitness level, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned runner.
An ideal sequence could be:
Step 1 Ankle and foot warm up
Step 2 3 – 5 min Walk
Step 3 1 – 3 min Dynamic calf workout
Step 4 3 – 5 min Light jog – short stride, building pace gradually
Step 5 3 – 8 min Dynamic warm up, building to training intensity
Step 6 Proceed to normal running
Step 7 5 – 10 min Cool Down and Stretch
As you can see, you could spend anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes warming up for best running form.
Explanation of Steps:
Ankle and foot movements are good before beginning your walk (particularly if you have been seated for some time, or if it is early morning). Move the feet up and down at the ankle 20-30 times, then circle the ankle 20-30 times.
A dynamic calf warm up is similar to a calf stretch, but instead of holding the position you walk the heels down alternately. A dynamic calf warm up is well demonstrated in this YouTube clip.
The buzz-word in training at the moment is ‘dynamic warm up’. All this means is that we keep moving the whole body – arms and legs.
You can build the vigour of your movement in 3 to 10 minutes to prepare for your individual training aim.
The key here is to keep moving continuously. Below are some suggestions of movements that can be done for 30 seconds each along for example, a 20-50m stretch of running path:
Caution – Some of these movements may not be suitable for you if you have any injuries or joint pain.
• High knee march with opposite arm reach
• High knee march with alternate open arms/hug across chest
• Side step – walk or skip sideways to the right and to the left
• Straight lunge, walk forward with deep long strides
• Walk or jog forwards while bringing your heels up towards your behind
• Over your initial walking and running warm up, focus on getting your arms moving in a running motion, opening up the chest/torso to full body height
• Circle arms in swimming movements as you walk/jog
For seasoned runners, these movements, and more, are demonstrated on James Dunne’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQEe7bSHg6o
If you are beginning to run, or are going to walk, you can adapt these movements to be appropriately gentle.
After 3 to 8 minutes of these movements you should feel warmer, more supple and ready to run! You should not feel pain – If you are a beginner and normal movement is painful you should stop and get it checked by a Chartered Physiotherapist.
A Basic Warm Up Plan
I know what you’re thinking…that won’t all fit into a lunchtime run! That’s why I have called it an ‘Ideal’ warm up. Give it a go at the weekend, and when you get used to it, you can adapt it to make the most of every run, however short the available time.
If you are just beginning to run using the jog/walk interval plan, and are not running at a fast pace it may be appropriate to leave out or minimize step 5. If you are just going for a light jog for 20 minutes, gradually build the intensity of activity through your session.
Remember, above all listen to your body, and enjoy your running!
In the weeks ahead I will give you advice about cool down, stretching, and what to do if you are injured.
6 Manor Street Dublin 7 / Phone 01 671 0222