Benefits of a Proper Warm-Up and Warm-Down

Coach Paul Greer of the San Diego Track Club has been helping runners train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & 1/2 for 20 years running! In this series, we’ll feature tips, workouts and programs, courtesy of Coach, that will help you conquer your first or 100th marathon!

The sport of running is a unique blending of spiritual, physical, environmental and mental challenges. It is both a sport and an experience. One often overlooked ingredient that is vital to success in this demanding activity is a proper warm-up routine. A proper warm-up prepares you to fully utilize your physical, neurological and psychological capabilities.

The muscular system must be properly prepared, so the temperature of the muscles must be elevated in order for them to work with optimal efficiency. The circulatory system must be properly stimulated in order for the most efficient transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The working muscles must be saturated with as much oxygen rich blood as possible prior to running. In addition, the body’s cooling system must be elevated to its most efficient level. In my opinion, all this cannot happen without a structured warm-up. The neurological system must be prepared in order for the proper laying down of the technical neural patterns required for efficient running. With proper and consistent warm-up, the correct neural reflexes will be programmed. This will allow you to rely on proper conditioned reflexes for efficient movement. This also helps to allow for proper running rhythm.

The warm-up must also prepare you for the psychological demands of training and racing. I believe you must have some sort of structured procedure that gradually increases your focus until a total relaxed concentration is reached.

In closing, without optimal preparation of the physical, mental and neurological systems it’s impossible to expect optimal performance in training or competition.

The practice of a warm-down is a rewarding experience!

Just as important as a structured and thorough warm-up is a proper warm-down. Your body’s muscles are highly utilized during a workout or race. A good warm-down will help the tendons, joints and muscles recover in a quicker and more efficient manner.

A good warm-down brings about a gradual lowering of the body temperature and heart rate through slow jogging. This also helps the muscles to gradually resynthesize lactic acid and remove out harmful waste products. Static stretching also helps to relax fatigued muscles and allow for removal of waste products.

Consumption of carbohydrates and electrolytes within 30 minutes of a workout will take advantage of your muscles’ greater ability to replace lost glycogen during this time. The replacement of fluids and carbohydrate energy sources lost during the workout should be included in the daily warm-down in order to take advantage of this 30-minute period of increased absorption. This quicker replacement of lost fuel will allow for a much fuller recovery.

Ingestion of vitamins C and E help to decrease exercise-related muscle damage and speed recovery. Remember, a better recovery will allow you to run at higher levels without experiencing the gradual onset of fatigue that many runners experience.

By ensuring that you warm-down, you can guarantee that your running will be a rewarding experience.

About Coach Paul Greer

Coach Paul Greer is Professor in Health and Exercise Science at San Diego City College and has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and 32 years coaching experience. Greer ran the mile in under four minutes (3:59.79) and was a 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier at 1500 meters with a 3:39.05. In addition to teaching at San Diego City, Greer also coaches for the San Diego Track Club; the largest running club in San Diego. He works with over 500 runners and is the Director for the Rockin N Runnin full and half marathon training program preparing athletes every year for San Diego’s Rock N Roll marathon/half marathon in June. Greer’s workouts cater for runners of all ages and abilities and he provides training schedules to his athletes on an individual basis.

Coach Paul Greer was featured in The Game Changer, the debut episode of Milestones, a video series that celebrates and commemorate the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series history.