How to warm up for the Mile
A one-mile race is a test of your ability to run at pace for a sustained period of time (anywhere between five and 10 minutes). Because it will be run at a higher intensity than other races you might be used to – 5 or 10ks, for example – your warm-up needs to prime your muscles for maximum effort from the off. The following exercises will make it easier to get up to speed and reduce your risk of injury.
Start with an easy-paced jog for three to four minutes to gradually get your muscles and joints moving, while raising your heart rate slightly and generally waking your body up. It’s also a good chance to practise good running form ahead of the race: run tall, engage your core, and keep those feet landing close to your body.
These are short sprints at one-mile pace, designed to get your blood flowing and heart rate up. Ten seconds is plenty – the aim is to prime your body for running at speed, rather than to tire yourself out – and four or five, at the end of your slow jog, will be enough. Again, focus on form, making sure you drive with your knees and move your arms forward and back rather than across your body.
Take a step forward with one leg, and bend both knees so that your back knee touches the floor (lower with control, so as not to bang your knee); step forward with your back leg and repeat on the other side – moving forward with each step. Walking lunges stretch out your lower body and get your legs used to the range of motion required for running at speed. Do 10-15 on each leg.
Forward leg swings
One for your hamstrings and hip flexors, forward leg swings also kick your nervous system into gear and increase circulation to your joints. Support yourself on a wall or fence with one hand and look ahead. Swing the leg furthest from the wall forward and back like a pendulum, maintain good posture and a tight midsection. Do 15-20 swings on each leg.
Lateral leg swings
To further target the muscles around your hips, support yourself on a wall or fence post, but this time face the supporting object. Using the same pendulum motion, swing one leg to the left and right in front of your standing leg. Maintain control and avoid twisting your torso. Do 15-20 swings on each leg.
Squat jumps will get your leg muscles firing and raise your heart rate so the first minute of the race isn’t too much of a rude awakening. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, squat down to a 90-degree angle so your hamstrings are parallel to the floor, then explode into a jump and land with knees slightly bent. You only need to do 10-12 of these, because the aim is to warm up rather than tire yourself out.
Dynamic calf stretches
When you run at a quicker pace, it’s natural to strike the ground with more of a forefoot action than you might be used to on slower runs, simply because it’s more efficient when travelling at speed. As such, your calf muscles will be placed under greater stress, so to prevent fatigue from setting in before the Mile is up, complete 30 seconds of dynamic calf stretches. Lean against a wall, stretch both legs back and, alternating each foot, rock up onto your tiptoes before returning your heel to the floor.