facebook instagram pinterest search twitter youtube whatsapp linkedin thumbup

The Smart Pre-Run Warm-Up: 3 Steps To Get It Just Right

It’s only the second mile of your marathon and you can feel it already: It’s going to be a hard day. Sounds familiar?

The chances are the culprit here is your warm-up gone wrong, or maybe you skipped it altogether.

When you’re properly warmed up, even starting too fast (which is another common mistake) isn’t that big of a problem. After warming up, you’ll be able to tolerate discomfort better.

When runners skip their warm-up, the line of thinking behind it is typically: “I don’t have time for anything extra so I’ll warm up as I go. I don’t want to wear myself out.”

While it’s true that you shouldn’t wear yourself out before a race or an intense training run, skipping your warm-up isn’t the way to go about it.

The solution is doing a smart warm-up – one that suits you and only you, no one else.

WHAT’S THE POINT OF WARMING UP BEFORE RUNNING?

Primarily, the point is to get your engine running, so to speak. A solid warm-up before running will decrease risk of injury and spare you from pain and general discomfort, or at least diminish them.

Thanks to this peak, you’ll have a powerful start that won’t be a shock to your body as your heart rate is already up.

Towards the end of your warm-up, you should aim to have your heart rate peak to the level it will jump to at the start of the race. That’ll make the beginning of your race a whole lot easier.

A functional smart warm-up will wake up your metabolism, muscles and nervous system, and bring your heart rate up from resting level.

3 STEPS TO BUILD A SMART WARM-UP ROUTINE DURING TRAINING SEASON

If you’re been running for a while, you likely know what kind of warm-up routine works best for you. When you’re doing hard training sessions, you need to warm up for those just as thoroughly as for races. The same warm-up will likely work for you on race day, as long as you hone the details.

So, when you’re warming up for your training sessions, try different approaches and see what works for you. Then make notes – mental or actual notes.

Having your own warm-up routine in your spine also helps you with anxiety on race day. When nerves threaten to topple you, starting your familiar warm-up routine helps you regain your composure and confidence.

When you have all the necessary background info, you can start your warm-up and be smart about it. With these steps you can both build your own warm-up routine during training season and warm up for any race or hard workout.

STEP 1: START GENTLY AND BUILD GRADUALLY – 10-20 MINUTES

First, you’ll want to wake up your body gently.

Start by walking and then switch to light jogging, letting your heart rate rise slowly and gradually. You can do this with some other discipline, too, such as cycling, just as long as you’re familiar with the sport.

At this point, the idea is to get your blood flowing and your aerobic engine humming – but avoid steep rises in heart rate.

This first part of your warm-up can take anything between 10-20 minutes. If you’re usually slow at warming up, take your time, at least 15-20 minutes, with this first step. This phase is important because it’s where your muscles, joints and cardiovascular engine get going.

Remember that at the end of this phase you should feel warm but not out of breath. Keep your cool.

STEP 2: INCREASE HEART RATE AND PACE MODERATELY – 10-20 MINUTES

Now you’re ready for some higher heart rate figures, and from here on you should stick to running.

For instance, you can run for 3-5 minutes a little bit faster and with a little bit higher heart rate compared to the previous step. Then stop and do some short, active stretches and dynamic moves. Repeat this twice or three times.

Most likely you know which pre-run stretches and moves are the best ones for you. Target your hip flexors, quads, glutes and calves, and remember to activate your pelvis and core as well. The aim is to get your muscles, joints and tendons working at their full range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.

Pay special attention to the areas you know are problematic for you or that feel tight. Breathe deeply and try to stay calm and composed, as demanding as that can be when you can’t wait to hear the gun.

At the end of step 2 you should feel warm and poised as well as confident.

STEP 3: BUILD HEART RATE UP TO RACE LEVEL – 10-20 MINUTES

It’s time to perfect your warm-up.

For your breathing and blood-vascular system, it’s all-important that you do some of your warm-up close to or on the level on which you’ll do the actual performance.

If you’re an experienced runner, you can do a couple of intervals to bring your heart rate up. These could be 3-5 minutes long. For newbies, it’s a good idea to be careful: make sure you do get your heart rate close or to the figures you’re expecting to hit at the very start of the actual performance, but don’t overdo it. Don’t get your lactates up too much.

Concentrate on how you’re feeling and lighten your effort if you get too carried away. Do one to three sprints that last 2-3 minutes and build your heart rate up towards the end of each sprint to the level it’ll jump to at the gun.

So, here we are! That’s it. Your engine is purring steadily and you should feel pumped up, eager and ready to rock n’ roll!

POST WARM-UP, GETTING READY TO RACE

Aim to start your actual performance no more than 15-20 minutes after you’ve finished your warm-up. This can sometimes be difficult, but still it’s a good rule of thumb.

After you’ve finished your warm-up, don’t make the mistake of staying still. If you have to wait for the start, keep moving and keep warm with some extra clothes, if possible. The idea is to keep up the warmth in your muscles and not let any stiffness set in. Some warm clothes and walking or light jogging will in most cases do the trick.

A smart warm-up is the cherry on top of the cake. It’s not only physically but also mentally important that you feel good at the starting line and in the early miles of your race. It just makes the whole thing a hell of a lot easier.

Best of luck, stay strong and, most importantly, enjoy the journey!

If you liked this post, don’t forget to share so that others can find it, too.

Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

Next up

The 3-phase marathon race plan – with pro tips for first-timers and seasoned runners

Whether you're a first-timer or an ambitious PB chaser, these tips from a pro coach will help you achieve your goal and cross that finish line.

Read next

Don't want to miss a thing? Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the know.