How To Warm Up For A Run

  • Last Updated: October 29th, 2019

Once upon a time, the only warmup that runners did before a run was some static stretching…

That’s a definite “no-no” today, though, as we now know that this type of stretching before a run can slow you down and also put you at risk for injury!

A proper pre-run warmup will prep your muscles and cardiovascular system for your run, which will increase performance and ward off injury.

Why warm up?

A pre-run warmup will raise your core temperature, which is especially important for wintertime or cold weather workouts. Warmups also help blood flow to your muscles and get your heart ready for the soon-to-come activity boost.

Here are a few more specifics about how a warmup helps your run:

  • When your body temperature increases, your metabolism works more efficiently and you’ll get a boost of energy.
  • Your muscle resistance will be lowered, which means your muscles can contract stronger and more quickly, which can help improve your performance.
  • The cartilage in your joints will thicken, which will increase bearing surface and help with load distribution.

How long should the warmup be?

There’s no direct answer to this question because the duration of your warmup will be determined by what exactly it is you’re warming up for. Ideally, you want to strike the right balance between warming up for long enough without causing fatigue that will strike during your run.

How To Warm Up For A Run

Regardless of how long your warmup is, make sure there is no longer than 10 minutes between the end of your warmup and your running start time. If you wait for longer than 10 minutes, you’ll lose the benefits of your warmup.

  • For easy, long runs, you don’t need much of a warmup at all, and the first few minutes of your run can even act as a legitimate warmup. Walk or jog at a gradual pace for up to 10 minutes.
  • For intervals and tempo runs, as well as other running workouts, your warmup should begin slowly and then finish at the pace that you’ll pick up for the workout. This ensures that you smoothly transition from the warmup to the workout. Jog for 20 minutes, and then follow the jog with dynamic stretching.
  • For short races, you need a vigorous warmup. Jog for up to 20 minutes and then do up to eight strides of up to 30 seconds each.
  • For marathons, the best warmup you can do is a round of mobility exercises. You don’t want to do much more than this for a warmup because you need to conserve glycogen. So long as your warmup perks you up and makes you feel ready for the run, it’s done its job.

What are strides?

Also referred to as pickups, strides help get blood flow to your muscles and move your body from walk mode to run mode. Before doing strides, you’ll want to go on an easy, two-minute jog (but you can jog for longer if you want, too).

For 60 to 100 meters, gradually accelerate, and then gradually decelerate. This is one stride. After the stride, walk around and shake your legs a bit for up to 90 seconds. Then do another stride in the other direction. You don’t need to time strides or worry too much about the exact distance you’re covering.

What is dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretching is different from static stretching. In static stretching, you hold the muscle in one position for at least 30 seconds. Experts have discovered that this can lead to injury.

Dynamic stretching, however, is recommended, and it refers to a series of controlled leg movements that are designed to help with everything from body temperature and heart rate to range of motion.

The Bottom Line

You may be tempted to skip your warmup in order to reduce how much time your run takes. Warming up is always important, though, especially as you take on more vigorous runs. To continue your life as a runner, make sure to warm up in order to protect yourself.

Scott Holliday

Scott Holliday has been coaching athletes of all levels for over 10 years and is certified by the acclaimed International Triathlon Coaching Association (ITCA). He works with athletes of all abilities to help then unlock their potential.