Your wondering how to warm up before a run. Some routines are better or easier compared to other routines. However, on one thing we can all agree as runners, is it is a good habit to warm up before your run. One thing we want to avoid as avid runners is to get injured. Warming up is a great way to prevent injuries. We have talked to expert running coaches below you will find their advice.
Just keep in mind that everybody who puts on his running shoes and goes out for a run is a runner. It doesn’t matter if you only run for fun and as a hobby, or if you are a fanatic runner, following an intense coach-led training schedule. You are fully entitled to call yourself a runner once you strap those shoes on.
It is important to perform dynamic stretches before your run. You want to avoid static stretches since they can cause injury. You can improve your performance and avoid injury by doing such a simple thing as stretching before you start your run. Whether it is a training run or you find yourself back at the starting line of a race, make sure to stretch before you hit the road.
Some samples of dynamic stretching are skipping, side-stepping, shuffling, a backward jog, butt kicks, hacky sacks, or toy soldiers.
As already mentioned, we runners don’t want to be sidelined because of an injury. We probably all have been there and if possible, don’t want to go back there. Injuries can happen due to many factors. Some can be managed within a reasonable amount of control of your actions, like warming up. Others you can’t control that much, think accidents.
Let us concentrate on warming up though and we can ask ourselves how to warm-up before running.
How to properly warm-up for a run before running
Warming up helps you to prevent injury. We can’t mention that enough times! What happens is that during a warm-up, your heart rate and breathing gradually increase. The blood flow to your muscles also increases and your body temperature is increased. Eventually, your body will be able to meet the demands of your workout. Did we mention already that you also lower the risk of getting injured?
With a good warming up routine, you help your muscles adequately to prevent injury. All the movements of your entire body, the stretches, and strains on your leg muscles will be less severe. It also helps to reduce muscle soreness. So, how to warm up before running? This can be done in many different ways.
Before my speed and interval training during a half marathon training schedule, high intensity runs over 6-10 km, I choose to do a 3km easy warm-up run with a very relaxed and slow pace. Let it last for 17 to 20 minutes, it’s almost like the slower you go, the better it is. Low intensity and slow pace are key! Other options for a warm-up can be walking, strides, a slow bicycle ride, or dynamic stretches. It is a good idea to incorporate lunges and leg swings into your routine.
There are various stretching routines available, just make sure to NOT use static stretches. Many famous runners have videos on Youtube where you can see their routines. Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, Kara Goucher, or Shalane Flanagan and many more have videos online and it is fun to watch them. Most importantly, they show you stretching routines that allowed them to be in the front of races and win them!
What is good enough for them, sure is good enough for you and me! Often I complete a stretching routine before a race that I saw on a Youtube channel. I hop around, throw in some high knees, and stretch to loosen up my muscles. As a side effect, it is also a great way to get your mind off the race for a moment.
How long to warm up before running? The consensus seems to be, that you should not wait any longer than 10 minutes between your warm-up and the start of a race or your work-out. Otherwise, you may risk losing out on some of the benefits of your warm-up. This is expert-based advice.
How should I warm-up before a run?
The way you warm-up before a run depends on what kind of run you are planning that day. The more intense you plan your workout, the harder your warm-up should be. In other words, if you plan a sprint or an interval run, your warm-up is at a higher intensity compared to planning a long recovery run.
Let’s have a look at a sprint or interval workout. You go from a slow jog via short bursts at 70% to a sprint at full speed. On top of that, it is a good idea to add some dynamic exercises so your muscles are active and ready for the planned workout.
When you plan a long recovery run, it is best to start with a slow jog for up to 10 minutes. What you want to achieve here, is that your heart rate is raised, which allows more oxygen and energy to be transported to your muscles. This is very similar if you do an ‘LSD” run or long slow distance run. The first 10-15 minutes take it easy and slowly settle in your pace for the run. This way, the warm-up is included in the run.
Let’s have a look at some different race distances and how to best warm-up for them;
How to warm-up for a run – 5km
How to warm-up for a 5km race is a different story altogether. For this short race type, it is a good idea to start 30 to 40 minutes before the start of the race with your warm-up. Start with just walking for 5 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of easy jogging. During the next 5 minutes, you pick up the pace a bit. Once this is done, make your way to the starting line and see if there is still some space left to perform some strides and jumps.
How to warm-up for a run – 10km
Warming up for a 10km can start with a brisk, 5-minute walk to wake your body up. Follow this by a 1.5 – 2 miles run. Start with an easy pace and incorporate four to six 30-second race pace segments in the last half of your warm-up.
How to warm-up for a half marathon?
Warming up for a half marathon is fairly easy and straightforward. A short, 5-minute brisk walk and some easy running for a few minutes should do it. You want to save your energy for the race! The same goes for a 10-miler. The half marathon is my favorite distance and this comes close to what I do before a race. I may add a few dynamic stretches, but nothing too long or extensive.
How to warm-up for a long run?
Warming for a long run, like a marathon, starts when you wake up. In contrast to shorter races, including and up to the half marathon, you don’t run out of glycogen during these races. A marathon, however, requires energy and fuel.
Straight after you wake up, lace up and go out for a 10-minute shake out run or walk and include some stretching. Easy is what we are looking for! Now you can go back and hit the breakfast room in your hotel.
Once you are at the starting line, make sure to stay warm. If you participate in a big event, you likely find yourself back in a corral for a while. Take some extra clothes that you don’t mind leaving behind. Since you are in a fairly confined space, dynamic stretching is the word now. You don’t need more than 5 minutes and it can be done with very little room.
Use the first two miles of the marathon as another useful way to warm up. You don’t need to hit race pace from the gun. Hopefully, this will help you to prevent a very common marathon mistake, going out too fast.
We have just looked at a variety of different ways to warm up before a run. How about getting a bit more specific and see how you can do a warm-up for particular parts of your body.
How to warm up knees before running
Warming-up your knees can be best done with an easy jog before running. However, you can add some routines to your workouts that specifically aim for your knees. Check out these simple dynamic exercises as one example you can do in 5 minutes pre-run.
You have quadriceps, these are muscles located at the front of your thighs. Ever heard of your ‘quads? Well, they are the same. You can loosen your quads by grabbing your ankle and pull it up behind you to your backside. Your knee should be pointing downward the whole time, you don’t want to pull it to the side. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Whilst you do this, it’s best to hold on to something, like a wall, table, or chair. Repeat this 3 times and switch legs. You can also do this routine by laying down.
A very useful exercise is a knee bend. This helps you to strengthen the muscle around the knee for support. Now we are talking! You can achieve smoother movement during this exercise if you place a ball between your back and a wall.
Start in a position that finds you against a wall with your feet about a foot away and your knees hip-width apart. Point your feet outwards. Now slowly slide your back down until your knees are bending slightly. Focus on tensing your buttocks as you come up. For this exercise, perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. For some extra support check out our helpful guide to buying a knee brace.
How to warm up calves before running?
You can do various calf stretches and calf workouts before you start running. Your calf muscles’ real names are the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. You can compare them with the gas and brake pedals in a car. Pushing up a steep hill and slowing down during the descent. That’s your calf muscles in action, giving extra power during the ascent and helping you to slow down during the descent.
Your calves need a lot of maintenance. Regular stretching as well as performing specific exercises will help to strengthen them.
How to warm up the Achilles tendon before running?
You can warm up your Achilles tendon by stretching. Heel raises and calf stretches are helpful. Other options to consider in preventing an Achilles injury is cross-training, increasing your mileage gradually, and select your shoes carefully. When running on new shoes, consider reducing your mileage temporarily.
The Achilles tendon works as your shock absorber. It helps your feet to move with the demand of your body weight and activity. The force developed can be up to 5 times your body weight. The faster your running speed, the greater the force developed.
An Achilles tendon injury can be caused by overtraining, changing footwear, and changing running surface. If you switch from road racing on hard pavement to trail running with a lot softer underground, your muscles are exposed to different stressors.
Is it bad to run without warming up?
When you don’t warm-up before you start to run, you have an increased risk of injury. Sports medicine clinics see up to 30% of injuries being skeletal muscle injuries. Warming up and stretching can easily prevent these kinds of injuries.
Another thing that can happen without a warm-up is blood pooling. Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) occurs when your leg veins don’t allow blood to flow back up to your heart. Your blood vessels expand during prolonged exercise, making it difficult for them to return blood to the heart from the legs. To prevent this, a cool-down period is recommended that should last three to ten minutes, or until you are ready to stop.
By now it should be very clear that a warm-up is essential in preventing injury. There are different kinds of warm-ups for different kinds of races. Consequently, how long to warm up before running will depend on the distance you are planning to run.
There are also warm-up routines for specific muscle groups. Choose what is best for you in your current circumstance.
Don’t forget to integrate a cool down after your run. Keep moving once you stop running! I always do a quarter-mile walk after a run. Just to keep the muscles moving and to give my body time to cool down. Decrease the heart rate and the breathing rhythm. First I change into dry clothes and after the walk, I also have a four-and-a-half-minute stretching routine.
One last piece of advice, if you do have a light injury, you can try the RICE method. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. If you have tried this but experience no improvement, or if you are unable to put any weight on the injured area, you should seek medical attention.
If you take your running seriously, all these tips and recommendations will help you to stay injury-free and get more mileage logged! That’s what we all want. Stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy your runs!
Dr. Krista Woods, Phillip Bishop, & Eric Jones: Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury