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Hold your horses: Why you should warm up before your run

Brent Fougner, director of the Athletics Canada National Endurance Centre – Victoria and eight-time CIAU coach of the year, and his wife Trish Fougner, a sports consultant and former national team runner, offer an eight-week plan to giving your running a spring tune-up. Follow them on Twitter at @coachfougner and @foggygirl

Proper preparation before a training session is just as important as the recovery after the session. Because the central nervous system needs to be triggered to perform the right sequence of movements as we run you need to get the body activated and warmed up. Neglecting this routine will result in muscle groups shutting off and creating an imbalance in running efficiency, which can lead to overcompensation by other muscle groups and potential injury.

Before we head out on any big run or workout, we start our preparation with some light soft-tissue work. This can be done on a foam roller, or with a tennis or golf ball. Roll out such areas as the hamstrings, calves and arches of the foot. This increases blood flow and helps prepare these muscles for exercise.

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Next, activate key muscles by performing your favourite stretches and holding them for just three to five seconds. One of the most important muscle groups used in trunk stability is the glutes. To activate the glutes, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground as close to your butt as is comfortable. With arms at your side, lift one leg off the ground and bring the knee toward your chest. Next, lift your hips up, balancing on your shoulders with the foot still on the ground. This is called the single leg glut bridge. Hold for three to five seconds performing three on each leg. This preparation should take about 10 to 15 minutes.

If you are doing a workout, it's time to head out for a warm-up run of 10 to 20 minutes of easy zone 1 to 2 running. You should include two to three minutes near the end of your warm-up run in zone 3 to get your breathing rate up, to activate the muscles around the lungs and maximize your lung volume.

We can now get into the dynamic part of the warm-up with some mobility and specific running exercises. Start with leg swings, high knee marching, arm swings and even some backward running to increase mobility around the major joints (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders). This series of movement patterns uses multiple muscle groups required to run efficiently. You are now ready to move into your workout fully warmed up.

This week's training includes some 10K and 5K pace work. Establishing your goal pace can be done by reviewing past races and setting new goals (be conservative at first). Remember that zone 4 training for a fit person is the pace they can hold for one hour, so you can adjust this pace to determine your 10k time. You can use an online pace converter and get a 5K pace to use in training. Again, please be conservative initially.

Monday: Day Off

Tuesday: Workout day – full warm-up, then 4-6 x 5 minutes at 10K pace with 3 minutes of zone 1-2 running between the 5-minute segments. Finish off the session with a warm down of 10 minutes in zone 1

Wednesday: Easy run in zone 1, minimum 35 minutes

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Thursday: Day off

Friday: Full warm-up, including 5 minutes running in zone 3, 5-10 x 2 minute zone 4 (establish a 5k goal pace for this workout) with 2-minute zone 1 in between, followed by a warm down of 10 minutes in zone 1

Saturday: Easy run in zone 1, minimum 35 minutes

Sunday: Longer run but not more then 25 per cent of weekly volume, include some running in zones 2 and 3 if you are feeling good.

Option: Substitute an easy day with some cross-training.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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