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4 Reasons Pre-Run Warm-Ups Are Key!

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Spectators at a starting line will notice that there are three basic types of people getting ready to run a race: those who go through an entire warm-up routine, including a warm-up jog and dynamic stretches; those who do a bit of jogging in place and a few stretches in the corral, and those who enter the corral and wait patiently for the gun.

If you do not warm up before each race, you might find yourself wondering if a pre-run warm-up routine is truly necessary.

Getting in a proper warm-up before running helps you run faster, feel better, prevent injury and recover more quickly from the hard pace of racing. 

But, what does a pre-run warm-up look like?

4 Reasons Why Warming Up is Key

As a running coach, I recognize how important it is to ensure athletes know why they are doing things.

So why is it important that you warm up before working out?

  1. Increase body and muscle temperature – Warming up for 15 to 20 minutes has been shown to increase body temperature by two to three degrees. This changes the partial pressure of blood gases, allowing more oxygen to enter muscle tissue. 
  2. Elevates the heart rate – It promotes blood flow to the muscles, readying them to work harder. Increasing circulation before the race brings nutrients and oxygen to your muscles before you even start, so you skip that phase when you begin the race.
  3. Reduces the risk of injury – When you ease into fast running with a warm-up, it decreases the overall stress placed on your body during a race or workout. This dramatically reduces the chances of injury to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  4. Gets you mentally ready – Sometimes, you aren’t in the most positive or confident frame of mind before a race. Getting moving helps release positive endorphins and promote blood flow to your brain.

What Type of Warm Up Do I Need: 4 Factors to Consider

The first thing to consider is what you are about to do for your workout. If you are getting ready for a challenging speed workout on the track, you likely expect to do certain things to warm up.

After that, you have figured out that hard, fast running needs a certain range of motion to warm up properly and for injury prevention. Here is where your dynamic movements come in. 

On the other hand, if you are going for a leisurely six miles with your friends and you know that the pace will start out easy and gradually get a bit faster, but never hit a challenging pace, you may be able to skip the warm-up altogether. Why? Because you are warming up within the run.

What if you are setting out to run a 10K at 75-85% effort? Then you should spend some time warming up. 

The point is that your warm-up varies considerably depending on many factors.

Things to consider are:

  1. The type of workout or race you are doing (speed work, easy run, etc.)
  2. The distance you are going to run (racing a 5K requires a longer warm-up than racing a marathon)
  3. The intensity you anticipate for the workout or race
  4. External factors like temperature (warming up can take a bit longer in very cold weather)

3 Keys to Follow When Warming Up Before Running

When breaking the warm-up into easy-to-remember points, there are three critical components to warming up before running.

These are:

  1. Easy Jog – Your warm-up jog can be anywhere from 1-3 miles. It really is runner-dependent. The longer the race you are about to do, the shorter your warm-up jog. Why? Because your pace for a shorter race is significantly faster. You need to prepare your body differently to race an 800, 5K, or a half-marathon. 
  2. Dynamic Warm-Up – These are drills, lunges, glute/hamstring/hip flexor stretches and dynamic movements you do to wake up the fast-twitch muscles while getting your body ready to work. Do not skimp on these. 
  3. Strides – If you are unfamiliar with strides, they are very short, 10 to 15 second runs at your race pace or faster. Find an open spot on a side street near the start line area where you have room to run back and forth. Take a minute break between each short stride and do at least 2-6 strides. 

Lastly, and this is not something every runner needs, is to take a few moments to stretch anything that tends to bother you when you run.

Is Walking a Good Warm-Up for Running?

Walking can be an excellent way to wake up the muscles before running, but you need to ask yourself what type of running you are about to do.

If you are heading into 800 repeats, you need faster and more vigorous movement than just walking. However, if you are heading out for an easy 5 miles with friends, an effort that you can chit chat the whole time, walking is probably enough. 

Walking can also be used as a precursor to other stages of warm-up (including dynamic and static stretching).

When running pre-dawn, before that first cup of coffee, when you are still working to pry your eyes up, you might find that walking for a few minutes before you break into an easy jog is an excellent transition.

How Long Should You Warm Up Before a Race/Run?

Begin your warm-up run 30 – 45 minutes before the scheduled start of your race or wave. The length of this run should depend on the race length and your level of experience.

 In general, the shorter the race, the longer the warm-up run.

If you’re a new runner, an easy five minutes of alternating between walking and jogging can be sufficient to prepare your body to race.  

For a more experienced runner, here are some suggested warm-up run times based on race length:

  • 5k: 10 to 20 minutes
  • 10k: 10 to 15 minutes
  • Half marathon: 5 to 10 minutes
  • Marathon: walk-jog to 10 minutes

How Should You Warm-Up?

Let’s break it down easily for you.

First, you do the jog. As stated, the length of your jog depends on the distance of your race. 

Next, you do the drills and dynamic warm-up stretching. This lasts anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

After your body is nice and warm, it is time to incorporate your strides.

Once you have done all of these things, you are ready to roll. 

Implementing a proper pre-run warm-up into your regimen is something that many runners slack on, but adding it in is a smart move that your body will thank you for.

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