Jim2's Running Page

The Warmup Mile

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9/25/97 

I think that you are not enjoying running because, by running 8 minutes and walking 4 minutes, you aren't reaching and staying above a "second wind" threshold. You are barely getting to it in 8 minutes of running....and then you fall below it during the 4 minute walking breaks. So, when you start again, you have to work your way back to it. You should shorten the walk periods so that you don't recover as fully. If you also have to shorten the running intervals as well, that's OK. Try running 6 minutes and walking 2. It will just be temporary. When this is comfortable, start shortening the walk breaks until you eliminate them. Before long you will be running with no walk breaks.....and enjoying it!

However, the first mile or so of any run will never be as comfortable as subsequent miles, unless you do the equivalent amount of work in some other form of warmup.

You're familiar with the term "getting your second wind?" It's the result of physiological changes that your body undergoes to deal with the increased level of effort you are placing on it. Your lungs expand to handle the increased volume of oxygen that your muscles are demanding. Your heart rate rises to increase the blood flow needed to deliver oxygen to and clear waste products from the muscles. A degree or so rise in your body temperature warms your muscles and increases their elasticity, as well as helps all of your body's systems operate more efficiently. These changes don't occur instantaneously. One way or another, you have to do the work to create these physiological changes and reach the "second wind" point. Most runners get there after running a few minutes, or about a mile into a run, from a cold start. You can shorten the running time and distance required by warming up first with other forms of exercise. But, to be there from the first stride of the first mile would require going through a warmup routine which would raise your heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature to the elevated levels that running a mile produces......not very practical for most of us. So, you will almost always have to spend part or all of the first mile completing the warmup to reach the "second mile" level of running efficiency.

Anything that you do as a pre-run warmup will help you to get your "second wind" earlier in your run and make the first mile easier. Some things help more than others. Simply stretching before running helps a little, but not much. Fast walking or biking will warm you a little more. So will rowing, aerobics, calisthenics, circuit weight training or any other form of vigorous exercise. Of course, a trade-off is that these warmup exercises will add to your total exercise time, since they will probably take longer than the time you will save in your first mile. One positive byproduct, however, is that the risk of injury to muscles and tendons while running might decrease, since you wouldn't be starting your run with completely cold muscles.

I don't do anything to warmup before running. (I used to stretch beforehand, but stopped after I concluded that it wasn't accomplishing anything. I always stretch afterwards, however.) I just start the first mile at a pace of about a minute per mile slower than my "easy" (75% max heart rate) running pace and gradually increase the pace during the first mile....call it a warmup jog. To me, jogging is simply easier, slower running. (No, I'm not trying to define the difference between runners and joggers as being based on pace. But, every runner, no matter what level of ability, has what he/she considers to be a "jogging" pace.) So, I consider warmup "jogs" (and cooldown "jogs", if I did them.....which I don't) as part of the run and I "log 'em".

I struggled as you are, Amy, when I first started running. Once I reached the point where I could run a mile continuously, it got easier. And, the first time I ran 2 miles, I felt as if I could go on indefinitely. It was the first time I stopped before I really had to. It was like bursting through a barrier and finding a marvelous new world on the other side. I entered a realm of running comfort that I had no idea existed. However, this more relaxed and comfortable state that you reach after warming up is pleasant, but it is not an ultimate "runners high". I'll put up another post offering my opinions of the runners high. I've beat this subject to death enough.

Jim2