How and Why to Warm Up for Long and Short Runs?

Follow our tips for warming up properly for any run.

Decathlon

How And Why To Warm Up For Long And Short Runs?

How and Why to Warm Up for Long and Short Runs?

Decathlon

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Why Warm Up?

There are psychological benefits to easing yourself into any intense activity. The primary benefit, however, is both physical and literal: your muscles and joints perform best when they’re warm. As they get warmer than their resting temperature, muscles become looser, more elastic, stronger, and more resistant to injury. Joints become more efficient and more resistant to stress. Your joints are lubricated with synovial fluid, which, like motor oil, becomes thinner and less resistant to flow as it gets warmer. Your knees, especially, will be happy to have free-flowing lubrication before you work them hard.

How to Warm Up

The amount of warm up you need proportional to the intensity of your planned run. If you’re running a double marathon, a few minutes very easy jogging followed by some stretching will be plenty-your race pace will barely be higher than your warmup pace, so there’s really no problem with completing your warmup with the early minutes of the race itself.

On the other hand, if you’re running a 100-meter sprint, you will have no chance to warm up during the event, and your performance will need to be at its peak starting with the first stride. So you’ll ideally perform a thorough, gradual warmup, followed by stretching, followed by a brief final warmup right before the starting gun.

Most of your runs will probably fall somewhere between these extremes. You should warm up, but you really don’t need to be warmed up 100% before you start the more intense portion of the run.

Many variations are possible. The following are suggestions for typical situations.

Warming up for an endurance run

- Jog easily at a warmup pace for 10 minutes. Your heart rate should be between 60 and 75% your maximum (HRmax), and you should be able to easily hold a conversation.

- Pause to stretch. At a minimum, stretch you hamstrings and glutes, your quadriceps, and your calves.

- Optionally, stretch your abs and shoulders, and perform a few warmup / mobilization exercises:

  • 10 jumps on the spot with your toes pointed up after calf stretches
  • 10 heel kicks (touching your bum) after quad stretches
  • 10 high knees after stretching your hams and glutes
  • 10 star jumps after stretching your abs
  • 10 windmills after arm/ shoulder stretches

Warming up for a high-intensity run (tempo or intervals)

Jog easily at a warmup pace for 10 minutes. Your heart rate should be between 60 and 75% your maximum (HRmax), and you should be able to easily hold a conversation.

- Pause to stretch. At a minimum, stretch you hamstrings and glutes, your quadriceps, and your calves.

- Stretch your abs and shoulders, and perform a few warmup / mobilization exercises:

  • 10 jumps on the spot with your toes pointed up after calf stretches
  • 10 heel kicks (touching your bum) after quad stretches
  • 10 high knees after stretching your hams and glutes
  • 10 star jumps after stretching your abs
  • 10 windmills after arm/ shoulder stretches

- The warm up should finish with three more intense runs of about 100 yards, gradually increasing the speed. Recover for a couple of minutes at a slow jog between these efforts. Finish at an intensity that has you breathing hard, but don’t let your muscles start to burn.

Important Points

Never rush your warm up before a race or an intensive session. You’ll risk muscle or tendon damage. You’ll also likely perceive the effort as more intense than you would if you were well warmed up.

- In cold weather, gently extend the duration of jogging (up to 30 minutes) to gradually bring your body up to the right temperature.

- Don't relax for too long between the different stages of your warm up. Keep the stretching exercises brief. You don’t want start cooling down before you even get started!

- Don’t forget to hydrate in cold weather as well as in warm weather to compensate for water loss when warming up.

- Use discipline to keep your warmup pace gentle, especially in the beginning. Resist your love of speed.

Enjoy your run!

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