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Pre Race Warm up

Post Series: Racing

The pre-race warm up is a key component in preparing your mind and body for competition and encompasses five parts and we start approximately 60 minutes before the race to ensure we can get through everything in a timely manner stress free.

  • Easy run
  • Dynamic stretch
  • Rhythmic Drills
  • Cut down
  • Strides
  • Mental prep

EASY RUN (60 minutes prior to the start of the race). Our warm up consists of 10-20 minutes of easy running depending on the weather. Body typically takes 7-10 minutes of easy running to increase body temperature. The colder the temperature the longer the run and vise versa.  Clothing also plays a part of the warm up so if it is cold layer yourself to insulate the heat and so you can strip down as your body temp starts to increase.  The warmer it is the less clothing you may need to warm up otherwise you’ll just be sweating profusely.

Why is it important to warm up? A warm up gives your muscles, bones, and joints a chance to loosen up; it gradually and gently brings up your heart rate and makes it easier to get into the rhythm you want to sustain.  From my exercise physiology class the Oxygen-Hemoglobin Dissociation Curve was the reason we warmed up.  When you start an exercise your body requires oxygen to turn fat and sugar into energy (ATP via aerobic metabolism).

Oxygen is carried through your body by a protein in your blood called hemoglobin which binds through the help of iron (each iron can bind one O2 molecule thus each hemoglobin molecule is capable of binding a total to four (4) O2 molecules). In your lungs, oxygen binds tightly to hemoglobin, but in the rest of your body, hemoglobin loses its affinity for oxygen, releasing the bound oxygen into your body’s tissues. The mathematical description of this process is called the oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve.

Here is a video (5:11) from Tracy Kovach that explains it well .

Pay attention the the right shift of the curve which decreases the affinity and releases the oxygen to the tissues; increase in exercise and temperature.  As your body is warmer it will release easier.  So take a moment and think about that.  If you are warmed up properly prior to your event your working muscles have “easier access” to the Oneeded that is required to generate energy (ATP). Warming up properly can help prime your muscles to receive ample oxygen by kick starting metabolism and increasing temperature. That can be the difference of feeling good and fluid in the middle parts of the race which keeps the confidence and rhythm going.  You want to be warm/ perspiring at the start of your race meaning your body is warmed up properly.


DYNAMIC STRETCH. The dynamic stretch we perform are the forward & side leg swings to dynamically stretch for the hip flexors, hip extensors, hip adductors, and hip abductors.

Forward Leg Swings: Brace the body against a wall or other support by holding one arm out to the side at shoulder height. Start with both feet directly under the hips and then swing the inside leg forward and backward.
Gradually increase the range of motion until the leg swings as high as it will comfortably go.

Side Leg Swings: Facing a wall or other support, brace the body with both arms outstretched and shoulder-high. Swing one leg to the side of the body, extending to a comfortable height. Swing the leg back crossing in front of the body. Increase the range of motion gradually until reaching the maximum comfortable height.

Rhythmic Drills. 

Cut down (20-25 minutes prior to race). The cutdown is continuous running that increases in speed close to tempo pace and is used in races that are greater than 800 meters.  For 1200/1600 meter races the cutdown would last for three minutes. The first minute is at an easy pace and progressively increases close to or at tempo pace by the third minute.  For the 3200 and cross country races it is similarly run, but for 5 minutes with the last minute also run close to or at tempo pace. The 800 meter race we complete 3-4 x 200 meters at a comfortable fast pace with a run recovery.  The purpose of this is to prepare your body/priming for the expected effort to come by increasing VO2 kinetics.  If you think back when you have a rep or interval workout it’s typically on the second or third rep that you feel your best.


Mental prep.

Coach Belo

Coach Belo is a USA Track & Field Level 3 and IAAF Level 5 Certified Coach for Endurance and Jump Events. Graduate work is in Exercise Science from Humboldt State University and currently is the Head Cross Country Coach at Mission Viejo High School and Director of GrassRoots Athletics.

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