This article was originally published by USA Triathlon in their News Blog Multisport Lab on May 13, 2019. ‘For Older Athletes, Use These Gentle Warm-Up Exercises’ by Lisi Bratcher LINK
As triathletes advance in age, no matter how much we train, our muscles and joints get stiffer and a little weaker. Before we go out for a higher intense or longer run or bike ride, we should properly warm up.
Why Do I Need to Warm Up?
Dynamic warm-up exercises increase the blood flow to your active muscles and increase the lubrication of your joints. While taking your joints through their range of motion, you increase their mobility. The more flexible you are, the more likely you can reduce your risks for injuries during your training.
Why Not Just Do Jumping Jacks?
One thing a female athlete beyond 40 years should avoid during a warm-up, is lots of high impact. Your muscles and your structure might not be ready. Instead, choose low impact warm-ups including dynamic mobility and strength exercises. They can alleviate some age-related decreases in the biomechanical capacity for skilled sport movements, such as running or cycling.
What If I like My Static Stretching Better?
When looking at acute effects of warm-ups on females 60+, it could be shown that static stretching alone and after a general warm up significantly increased the range of all lower extremity joints. But the routine including a general warm-up with dynamic moves increased the range of motion around the ankle much more. When comparing dynamic Pilates exercises with static stretching, it was concluded that dynamic exercises are more effective for improving flexibility in older women.
Which tells us that any routine with stretching is better than no warm-up. But if you want to get ready for dynamic moves such as running or cycling, use a dynamic warm-up!
How About Running Drills I learned in High School?
Well, they might be great for younger kids, but a little bit too intense for female runners with advanced age. Instead, use a scaled down version of exercises you are most likely familiar with.
RUNNERS ABC DRILLS
- Walking Lunges
Walk in large steps. Step forward with right leg and swing left arm forward (see picture). Focus on lowering hips by bending rear leg, without pushing front knee forward. Tighten your core, swings arms diagonally on your side, lean slightly lean forward in your torso. Keep feet pointing forward and hip-width apart.
- Diagonal Knee to Elbow
While walking, raise thigh, bend arm, and bring right knee to left elbow (left picture). Alternately bring diagonal knee to elbow, while walking (right picture). Tighten your core, keep your torso upright and avoid a hyperextension in your lower back.
- Air Squats
Start standing upright, proud chest, tight core (left picture). Bend hips and knees and lower hips (right picture). Imagine like wanting to sit down on a chair behind you. Keep weight on heels, reduce pressure on knees.
- Soldier Walk
Start standing upright, proud chest, tight core (left picture). Swing extended leg up front and try to reach towards foot with both arms (right picture). Focus to keep your back straight with a slight lean forward (avoid hunching over).
- Side Shuffle with Criss-Cross (Karaoke)
Start standing upright with soft bend in knees and hips. Step sideways and cross with right leg in front of left leg. In your next step, step side ways , then cross with your right leg behind your left leg. Continue to step sideways and alternate legs which are crossing in front/ in back of each other. Switch directions, by criss-crossing your way back.
- Butt Kicks
With upright upper body and arms swinging on your side, bring heels towards your glutes. Alternate legs while walking forward. Alternate diagonal left arm swing to right leg butt kick (see picture), and right arm swing to left leg butt kick. Keep torso tight. Can be done in place or moving forward.
- High Knees
With a tight torso and an upright upper body, swing arms on your side. Bend knee and swing thigh out up front up to your hip level. Alternate diagonal left arm swing to right high knee (see picture), and right arm swing to left leg high knee. Can be done in place or moving forward.
- Low Impact Side Jacks
Start standing upright with soft bend in knees and hips. Simulate Jumping Jack move by swinging arms to side, up to shoulder level, and stepping with left leg to side. Swing arms down and step left leg back to start, then repeat arm swing and step to R side. Continue to side step while alternating legs
How Often, How Many Reps?
If you have not done any dynamic warm-up exercises before your workouts, begin slowly and gradually build it up.
Beginners: Start out with 10-15 repetitions each exercise/ each side. Active rest with walking for 20-30s and continue with next exercise. Aim for 1 Round.
Intermediate: Start out with 10-15 repetitions each exercise/ each side. Active rest with light jog for 20-30s and continue with next exercise. Aim for 2 Rounds.
How Do I Gradually Build-up?
After a few weeks you might get adjusted to these exercises and you want to step it up to the next level. Here are options how to increase intensity.
Increase Speed: Try to increase your movement speed during the exercises.
Add More Running: During your active rest, firstly replace walking by jogging, secondly extend the amount of jogging eg. up to 1-2 min.
More repetitions: Build your strength by extending the duration of the exercises. Shoot for 30s, then 45s, then 60s.
Scale Down Exercises You Enjoy
These exercises are pretty much scaled down versions of regular dynamic warm-up exercises. You can go ahead and adjust other exercises you are familiar with, and you enjoy doing.
Take out the impact by doing them in place, lift your legs less high, reduce the frequency (slow down) or instead of jumping, tap your feet. All of these will make sure that you are not stressing your structure too early into your workout.