A Runner’s Guide To Warming Up

Written by: Chris

Updated on:

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When it’s time to run, you just want to get going. Once you’ve got your runners on your feet, it’s time to start pounding the pavement, right?

Not quite – whether you’re out for a training run or about give it your all in a race, it is essential that you have a proper warm-up. In this article, we find out why you need to warm up, and exactly how to do it to make yourself a better, safer runner.

Benefits of Warming Up

There are 3 primary reasons for warming up:

  • It guards against running injuries
  • It thoroughly prepares your body for the demands of the session to come
  • It allows you to have better running form

The main purpose of a warm-up is to prepare your body for exercise by increasing your body temperature, breathing rate, and heart rate. The result is that your blood vessels widen, allowing more oxygen to be transported to your muscles.

More oxygen in the muscle helps to prevent the rapid build-up of lactic acid and other metabolic by-products that result in muscle burn when you start running without a warm-up.

To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

Stretching before running can be a confusing topic. Some experts tell us not to, while others say that it is vital.

Regardless of these differing opinions, it is important to stretch your muscles, as running makes them tight, especially those in the legs. But should you do dynamic stretching (as in arm circles) or static stretching (where you hold one position, such as when you touch your toes)?

The answer is both. Dynamic stretching can loosen up your muscles before you run, while static stretching will lengthen out tight muscles, reduce post-exercise muscle ache and minimize running injury.

Your Cardiovascular Warm-Up

When you warm up before a training run or a race, you will perform better. That’s because your body will be primed to move with proper running form from the outset with the proper technique.

Your warm-up should be for a minimum of five minutes. Start your warm-up with some brisk walking. After 3 minutes of this, raise the heart rate a little higher with a gentle jog for 30 seconds.

The Muscle Warm-Up

Now that your cardiovascular system is warmed up, it is time to get your muscles moving with some dynamic stretching.

1. Begin with windmill rotations. Simply swing your arms in a windmill fashion with your elbows locked, 5 front and 5 back:

2. For the chest and upper back, perform flyes by starting with your arms extended out in front of you with elbows locked. Bring the arms out to the sides until they are perpendicular to your torso. Do 10 of these, focusing on contracting and extending the pecs and lats:

3. To warm up the muscles of the core, perform twists. Start with hands on your hips, then twist the body to the right as you turn your head in that direction. Focus on the movement of the intercostals at the side of your waist. Do 5 twists to each side:

4. Pelvic circles will thoroughly engage the pelvic area. With hands on hips and feet shoulder-width apart, perform exaggerated circles with the hips, going in each direction 5 times. Keep your legs straight throughout this movement:

5. Perform 5 Deep Knee Squats for the quads and glutes. With your arms directly out in front of you, and your back arched, lower yourself into a full squat. Look up throughout this movement:

You are now ready to run.

After the Run

 Cooling down after each run is important. It safely returns your heart rate, blood pressure and temperature to your pre-exercise condition. It also helps to flush out the waste by-products of your exercise session. In addition, it helps to alleviate post-run soreness and minimize running injury.

At the conclusion of your training, gradually reduce your training from a run, to a jog and then a light walk. Then stop and take some water. You should now do some static stretching for the main muscle groups of your legs as follows:

Quad Stretch

Stand up straight, keeping your left supporting leg slightly bent. Bend your right leg and, holding the front of your foot, pull your foot up towards your glutes. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg:

Calf Stretch

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and one leg a few feet behind the other. Slightly bend your front knee, keeping the rear leg straight. Keeping your heels on the floor, stretch out the back calf muscle, and hold for 30 seconds. Do 5 stretches on each leg:

Standing Hamstring Stretch

In a standing position, raise your right leg and place the heel on a rail or bench. Lean forward, keeping your back and legs straight and your shoulders and pelvis facing forward throughout. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.

Standing Glute Stretch

Stand a foot away from a bench or wall. Holding the bench with your left hand, cross your right ankle over your left thigh and rest it against the bench. Making sure your back is straight, rest your right hand on your right thigh and hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.

Key Points Recap

  • Start your warm-up with a 3-minute run.
  • Do dynamic stretching before the run.
  • Do static stretching after the workout.

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