The purpose of a warm up (for training or event) is to prime both the body and mind for optimal performance. An effective warm up is event and athlete specific.
For endurance events it is important to switch on the body’s aerobic system, which can take up to 7 minutes to fully activate. Until the aerobic system is working the athlete is relying on anaerobic metabolism which is fatiguing. We have all experienced this feeling when doing reps, first rep feels hard, second feels a bit better and by the third it feels good.
Scientists working in the field of Strength and Conditioning (better referred to as Physical Preparation) have suggested a framework for structuring warm up activities. One such example as recommended by England Athletics is the RAMP method:
Raise: body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow and joint fluid viscosity.
Activate: the key muscle groups.
Mobilise: key joints and ranges of motion used.
Potentiate: potentiation refers to activities that improve the effectiveness of the subsequent performance. This would involve a gradual shift to the event specific activities of increasing intensity.
For endurance races it is necessary to take practicalities and the actual event into consideration. e.g. for a big city marathon it is unlikely that a warm up can be carried out therefore the first few miles should be progressive. For half marathons, 10M, 10km and 5km events a warm up should be considered.
Some good practise examples of RAMP is as follows:
Raise – jogging >> very easy paced running anything up to 10 minutes.
Activate and Mobilise – ankling, straight leg running, skipping for height/distance, hamstring sweeps, tiny fast feet.
Potentiate: strides (50m – 80m) at target race pace or quicker. Potentiating above target race pace can make the early part of the race feel easier, these needs practicing to see what works best.