New research shows that a gentle warm-up on race day just won’t cut it anymore.
Warming up before a race has become a standard for every athlete, regardless of ability or level. It is surprising, therefore, that there has been so little research on the topic.
Recent research from the English Institute of Sport has challenged what we think of as the norm for warm-ups prior to a race.
Their study suggests that you will perform much better on race day with a more aggressive warm-up that includes bursts at race pace.
In the research, physiologists had eleven athletes try two different warm-up routines before racing in an 800 metre time trial. In both warm-up sessions they conducted a ten-minute self paced jog and standard set of mobility drills. These were then followed by either six 50m ‘strides’ or two 50m strides with a continuous high intensity 200m run at full race pace.
The result? In the more aggressive warm-up, which included the 200m race pace run, the athletes gained a 6-8m improvement in the actual race – equivalent to 1.2 seconds. While that might seem like a small improvement, over an 800m race it makes a big difference. The athletes also had a measurable improvement in VO2 and they fatigued less in the final 200m than with the gentle warm-up.
More studies are due, especially for longer distance races, but the results of this one are in. Avoid the gentle warm-up on race day, and you might just gain the extra yards you need to win.