How and why you should warm-up before running

man in black t-shirt and black shorts running on road during daytime

Most training plans include a warm-up before a running workout, but runners often ignore it. Warming up is dull, takes too much time and is pointless. Isn’t it?

If you’re someone who tends to just lace-up and go all-out, you may want to reconsider your pre-run routine. Here’s a few reasons why you should warm-up and the best ways to do it.

The benefits of warming up

Warming up prepares your body for activity. A good warm-up will increase your body temperature and blood flow – including the oxygen – to your muscles. It also helps kick start your aerobic system to work optimally at the beginning of a workout.

Warm-up exercises help reduce injuries, too. They enhance agility and improve tissue and muscle flexibility, which is vital if you’re sat at a desk all day and your hips and glutes become dormant. If you head out for a run without warming up you increase the risk of pulling a muscle or tweaking a tendon.

Warm-up before every run?

Pre-run mobility poses very little risk, so there’s no reason not to spend a few minutes performing dynamic stretches. Doing so ensures your muscles are woken up and ready to be used, and you can identify what areas of your body are feeling tight etc.

It also improves performance. In a study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, they discovered runners who performed dynamic stretching before a workout were able to sustain a hard effort for longer than those who didn’t.

The simple exercises in the video below will help you get your major muscles moving and ready for the run ahead.

Warming up during a run

If you’re doing a recovery or easy run, then there’s little requirement for this next bit of the warm-up. For more intensive runs – tempo, intervals and hill repeats – you should ease into the workout to prime your body for what’s to come.

Typically, and somewhat arbitrarily, most warm-up periods at the start of workouts tend to be around 15 minutes. This number seems rooted in track and field, where the warm-up can be done near the venue and can be exactly 15 minutes. This is often impractical, particularly if it takes you longer to reach somewhere that’s appropriate for the workout you’re doing.

My recommendation is to spend anywhere between 10-30 minutes running at 2-4 on the RPE scale. If you’re a seasoned runner, an additional 3-4 strides at anywhere between 15-20 seconds will help with leg turnover and stride length.

Running warm-up summary

  • Your muscles need warming up before you run.
  • A good warm-up ensures your muscles are well supplied with oxygen before any vigorous activity.
  • Warming up also increases the temperature of your muscles, meaning they can move optimally.
  • Do 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching before every run.
  • If you’re doing an intensive workout, spend at least 10 minutes easing into it by jogging or running.

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