The Importance of Warming Up

Yesterday I ran for the first time in a week and knocked out just 3k as instructed. Before starting I went through my usual warm up routine and it occurred to me that it is something we rarely see mentioned in running blogs.

Maybe its just me but I have learned that any kind of speedwork requires me to do a good, long warm up first. Yesterday I covered nearly as far on my warm up as I did on my run. My warm up included a few jogging and walking intervals, some butt kicks and some high knees. If I don’t do this, my first kilometer can only be run at a very gentle pace. If I am on a long slow run, the first 1 to 1.5 km is done deliberately gently as a warm up.

Runners Connect says about warming up:

“There are two components to a good warm-up: general and specific. A general warm-up elevates the core body temperature and lubricates the muscles, allowing them to contract and relax more efficiently. A specific warm-up increases neuromuscular activation, preparing the muscles to fire in the specific way they will be asked to do in the race or workout.”

Their recommendation on how to do this is to jog for at least 10 minutes and then 20 seconds each of arm swings, walking lunges, leg swings both to the sides and forwards and backwards, hopping in place then my butt kicks and high knees. They also recommend that you do some strides at your intended race pace.

So it seems I am doing the right thing. Of course, there is much discussion on whether to stretch or not before a run. I usually don’t but if my hamstrings are tight I might do a small bit after the jog but before the butt kicks etc.

What do you do to warm up? Do you warm up at all?




9 thoughts on “The Importance of Warming Up

  1. Good post. I’ve read a few articles that suggest that stretching before running can have a detrimental effect… but I think the key point that is often overlooked is that static stretching is bad, but dynamic stretching of the type that you mentioned is good πŸ™‚

    I do parkrun virtually every Saturday and my warm up depends on whether I am trying to run hard or whether it’s just a social run. My local event attracts up to 850 runners, so the start can be a bit congested and forces me to start slowly and run a negative split. I also usually do a light jog to the start that I count as my warm up – if I am aiming for a PB, I will do a much longer warm up and will also include some active mobilisations. For a long time, I didn’t really do a warm up for most most illogical reason – I worried that if I did a warm up jog then I wouldn’t have enough energy to complete the 5k. That’s probably a justifiable excuse for new runners, but as someone who still had that attitude after completing a marathon, it says a lot about my lack of confidence!

    When I am coaching, I am very careful about including a steady warm up, even if the planned session is a long run. It makes me really sad when I see groups go speeding off at their tempo pace immediately. (It also irritates me if I’m in someone else’s group and they do that – as asthmatic, I have to take care not to set off too quickly or my lungs will refuse to comply later!)

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    1. Completely agree with your point about running with a group. I had exactly that experience when trying out a Running group and it did put me off. I didn’t mention age in my post deliberately as I feel all runners need to warm up properly but personally feel I may need to warm up more than those under 40

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      1. I’m a coach for my club and I bring it up every time we have a meeting with Run Leaders, but some people just don’t think to check their watches.

        I also agree that each year adds a coiple more creaks to my body. Why didn’t I take up running over 25 years ago?!

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  2. Definitely different for everyone, and I think it’s important to note that there’s no universal recipe for success. For my longer runs, I start with about 3-5 minutes of skipping rope. Like, I keep a jump rope in my car for this purpose. Afterward, I will do some very light stretching, usually because it’s morning and my quads and calves feel tight, and then I do a brisk walk for 2-3 minutes and slowly work my way into my long run pace. For me, this has been the winning combination that makes it so I don’t wear out too easily, I’m able to move better, I get fewer side stitches, and I’m not as huffy and puffy by the end of my first mile!

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    1. It absolutely is an individual thing. I am surprised though that some people can just take off at race pace. I would be out of breath in minutes. It takes my body at least a kilometer to find that happy place where your breathing becomes easier and your muscles feel warm and fluid

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  3. Good post subject and one I too was just about to start writing about! πŸ˜€

    I agree it’s definitely personal, however there’s a lot of scientific evidence to say that stretching pre-run is good AND bad. Who do you believe? Go with how your body feels! Personally, I think dynamic stretching pre-run is pretty much essential. Don’t get me wrong, I can be lazy when it comes to this but post-run I am 100% diligent with static stretching and spend a good 10 minutes doing so, working hams, quads, calves & achilles, glutes, piriformis and psoas (as best I can with these last two as hard to isolate).
    Pre-run, I tend to do leg swings, bounce around the house a bit and/or run up and down the stairs(!) and work on hip flexors/psoas & piriformis (my right adductor can get very tight as I have an imbalance so I must stretch this muscle group) although I rarely start a run at a ‘warm up’ pace, but I may begin to incorporate this. I find if I stretch too much pre-run, my adductors tend to fatigue quicker. I found also that stretching my hams caused more pulls and since stopping this, voila! no pulls! Like you say in your comment, I too, and I suspect most runners, take a while before you hit your ‘zone’, where the muscles/body is nicely warmed up. For me, this can take up to 5 kilometres, which is just bloody annoying! After that though, the running comes ‘easy’.

    As far as group running goes; I run with my club most Thursday nights for a 7 mile hill session and the majority of guys do not stretch but instead use the approx. 1.5 km distance prior to the first hill to warm up (which is rarely a ‘warm up’ pace!). Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get pulled into chatting and not stretching properly, but being social is good!

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    1. Great minds think alike πŸ˜€it’s great to hear from someone being thorough and the key here is learning from experience. I often use walking toe touches to stretch my calves and warm up my core. I get the odd look but that’s better than a strained muscle. I can relate to the 5k point of warming up on an LSR.

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  4. Nothing like a gentle run as a warm up for a longer one, and then yes, some more targeted ones for a faster 5k, for example. General rule: warm up, workout, stretch. Crazy stretching when cold is asking for trouble. Hence crazy middle-aged men all stretching like crazy before an astro kickabout, usually followed swiftly by torn hammies, tweaked groins and sprains. And yes, that has been me as well!

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