Friday, June 13, 2014

A Hard Warm Up Helps You Run Faster

Weight vest from Flickr by Dennis S Hurd
Wanna run faster in your next race? Turns out a hard warm up can help you run faster before your race.

If you've ever been to a track meet and seen the runners warm up, you'll probably see them jog/run a fair bit, do some running drills, short sprints or strides (depending on their event) and other fairly vigorous activities as part of their warm up. You'll probably see the same prior to hard track/ interval sessions of some runners if you run at your local track. Usually the shorter the race, the more intensive the warm up.

Now there's research backing this up. Researchers studied a group of runners who went through their warm up and a race simulation thereafter on 2 occasions.  Before each race simulation, the runners (as part of their warm up) did 10 mins of easy jogging, 5 mins at a brisk (but not all out pace), six 10-seconds of striding (or accelerations at their mile race pace or faster). The runners rested 10 mins and did a series of jumps, another submaximal 5 min run and then a treadmill test at peak running speed.

That's some weight vest! (Picture by Ving Henson from The Pit)
The only difference was the runners wore a weighted vest while doing their 10-second striding. The runners after warming up with the weight vest had results significantly better. Their running economy was 6% better on the post striding 5 min run, peak running speed was 2.9% faster! (Running economy measures your running efficiency. You can run faster at the same effort if your running economy improves as that pace will feel easier, hence elite runners often use intervals to improve their running economy).

The researchers think that increased "leg stiffness" noted in the post striding jumps primed the legs and improved running economy in the runners, leading to faster times. I suppose an exercise scientist would say that running with the weight vest causes neuromuscular training adaptations (which means your brain is also being trained)  which makes the runners' legs stiffer so their running economy improves.

If you said "Jump", I'd say "How high?" Picture from The Pit 
A similar scenario may be felt for those of you who run intervals. You will probably notice that during your first 2-3 reps (of say a 10 x 1 km interval session) will feel more difficult than the next few reps as your body acclimatizes.

Now before you go and order that weight vest, do keep in mind that this work best for track middle and long distances and for road races up to 10 km. You should also try this in your interval training sessions and before low key races to see how it works for you before trying it prior to an important race.


Barnes KR, Hopkins WG et al (2013). Warm-up With A Weighted Vest Improves Running Performance Via Leg Stiffness And Running Economy. J Sci and Med in Sport. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsams.2013.12.005.

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