Friday, May 11, 2007

Giving Your Warm Up A Needed Tune Up

Giving Your Warm Up A Needed Tune Up
By Ed McNeely
From Rowing News, July 2003
Have you ever notices that part way through a workout your energy levels seem to pick up or that during a head race you catch your second wind about halfway through? If so you may not be warming up sufficiently. Pre-training and pre-competition warm ups are now the norm rather than the exception in most sports. Most coaches and athletes approach the warm up as means of preventing injury. However, there is little to no research that indicates that warm-up plays a major role in injury prevention. The warm up does however, have the ability to improve or hinder performance depending on how it is done. A good warm up will normally take 30-40minutes, including the on water and off water portions.

A Warm up has three purposes. First it improves blood flow to the heart muscle and helps prevent abnormal cardiac rhythms and heart attack. While this may not be a major concern for younger athletes, master athletes, people in learn to row or corporate challenge program, which involve less active, older individuals can benefit. Second, as the name implies, a warm up increases muscle temperature. Increased muscle temperature improves oxygen uptake, decreases lactic acid production, increases speed of muscle contraction, and increases the nervous system activity. It is through these changes that performance is improved. Third, a warm up provides the ideal time for pre-competition psychological preparation. Race plan cab be rehearsed and technical points can be mentally reviewed. A well designed warm up has the following components.

Often warm up stretches are confused with stretching to increase flexibility. The stretching during a warm up is designed to help you reach your existing level of flexibility. The stretching also activates the stretch receptors in the joints and muscles. This may help you row technically better. Stretching during warm ups will normally involve dynamic stretches, meaning that rather than holding a stretch for a period of time you move through your full range of motion and immediately back out. An example would be doing several full squats to stretch out the quads prior to getting into the boats.

Light Row
This, the first of two light rows, is designed to increase body temperature and provide the performance benefits listed above. This is a good time to mentally rehearse the race and think about the strategy you will use for a variety of scenarios. This portion of the warm up should last for 15 to 20 minutes. If it isn’t possible to be on the water this long prior to a race, an erg or run can be used to raise temperature instead. Keeping the workout intensity low during this phase is very important. You don’t want to create fatigue during the warm up so keep your pace about 15 seconds per 500m below your race pace for 1000 and 2000m races and 12seconds per 500m below had race pace.

Hard Strokes
Doing hard strokes or short sprints helps to increase muscle temperature, improve lactic acid removal and give the crew the feeling of speed and power going into the start. The sprint period or hard strokes should not be done for more than 15 seconds at a time with at least 45seconds between sprints. Longer periods may result in lactic acid accumulation that could slow race performance. The total time spent doing hard strokes should be about 5 minutes.

Light Row
Following the hard strokes, 5 to 10 minutes of light paddling will help remove any lactic acid that has built-up and prevent fatigue from setting in early in the race. This is the part of the warm up program most easily forgotten but may be the most important for race performance. Use similar splits to those used in the first light session row. Try to time this portion of the warm up so that you finish near the start line just before the start of your race. You don’t want to sit for more than about 10minutes between the end of your workout and the start of your race.

Individual differences exist between athletes as to how long they need to warm up but as a general rule you are better to err on the long side and not cut the warm up short. Environmental conditions like temperature and humidity also play a role in warm up duration. On a cool fall or spring day warm up may have to be substantially longer than on a hot humid summer day. Combine the recommendations made here with your own judgment to make sure that you get the most out of your pre race preparation.

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