Wednesday Workout: Warmup/Wake-Up with Justin Freeman

Gabby NaranjaSeptember 14, 2016
Justin Freeman racing in the 10-mile "Dam tot Damloop" in Amsterdam last fall. (Courtesy photo)
Justin Freeman racing in the 10-mile “Dam tot Damloop” in Amsterdam last fall. (Courtesy photo)

Looking for way to boost the worth of your interval workouts? Justin Freeman, a 2006 Olympic cross-country skier and older brother of Kris Freeman, suggests taking a look at your warmup. He recommends incorporating technique drills prior to harder efforts to improve muscle strength, speed and stability, while also warding off injuries.


It’s not when the white lines of the track lanes blur together and you push through anyways or the precious sip of water during recovery time that make or break a workout. It’s the warmup. At least, that’s what Justin Freeman, 39, discovered after training with the Leiden Atletiek running group in Leiden, South Holland, this past year.

Justin Freeman (r) racing the 15-kilometer Zevenheuvelenloop in Nimegen last fall.  (Courtesy Photo)
Justin Freeman (in orange) racing the 15-kilometer Zevenheuvelenloop in Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, last fall. (Courtesy photo)

After moving to the Netherlands last July for a teaching job at the American School of the Hague, Freeman traded ski trails for the track and began attending the the Leiden Atletiek club’s weekly Wednesday night workouts.

“It’s a pretty neat running club,” Freeman said on the phone from the Netherlands. “There’s a huge variety from young kids to retired people. And there’s different training each day. There’s also a number of training groups. My training group is coached by Brom Wassenaar, who is a former Dutch Olympian.”

Now in his second year as a member to the group, Freeman found the greatest gains he made in his running came from changing his warmup routine before interval workouts.

“We do ten to fifteen minutes of running technique drills, focused on sort of generating power, quick foot strike, kind of getting off your feet,” Freeman said. “I’ve actually found after doing those drills and doing some accelerations, I’m much faster in my first interval. Usually if I haven’t done a fair amount of speed, I’m very low off the line … this has really helped me to have go-to speed off the start and I’m holding back on the first interval.”

The Workout

Warmup: 15 minutes running

(Freeman adds an extra 20 minutes to his warmup by biking to practice from home)

Additional warmup/wake-up technique: 5 minutes of drills, 2 accelerations, 5 minutes of drills 2 accelerations, 5 minutes of drills, 2 accelerations

Freeman’s suggested running-technique drills:

  • 3-steps of high knees followed by a hold, repeated
  • Two footed hops with resistance (partner holds shoulders down) for 20meters followed by 20 meters no resisitance
  • Hang from top of fence for 30 seconds and drop down into strides
  • High knee, followed by butt kick, repeated

5 minutes to change into spikes and get water

The set: 5 x 1,000 meters on the track at faster than race pace with 3-minute recovery

(Freeman estimates them as approximately 3 minutes per 1,000 meters)

Cool down: 10 minutes on foot

(He adds an extra 20 minutes to his cool down by biking home)

Total time: 1-1.75 hours

Freeman’s Top-Two Finds for Better Workouts

  1. Work the Warmup. “I am increasingly sold on finding some kind of form or technique drill to do as part of a warmup,” he said. “If you’re doing a rollerski workout and you’re working on quickness or going up hills, then do some drills beforehand where you really practice quickness and going up hills … or if you’ve got a coach with you, do a little technique review before you go into the workout so you can really bring whatever technical change you’re making into the workout.”
  2. Appreciate Training Partners Who Push You. “Having lived in central New Hampshire for as long as I did and finding people who are significantly faster than me to run with … would’ve pretty much meant driving to Boston, which I wasn’t about to do, certainly not every week,” Freeman said. “So just the chance to be out for a workout and have someone unequivocally faster to run with is really neat.”

Gabby Naranja

Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.

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