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Warming up before running

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Warm-Up Before Running

Skipping warm-up before running is surprisingly common even though it should be (but is it?) a well-known fact that warming up before a run lowers the risk of injury and boosts performance. Yet, a lot of runners tend to skirt around a proper warm-up.

We’ve all watched the hardo at the track pound an energy drink and immediately launch into a sprint workout. We’ve also seen a distance runner pull up at the park, hop out of their car and take off on a trail run without thinking twice.

Sure, hopping and skipping across a field like a rabbit can look ridiculous, but isn’t a better performance more important than looking cool?

This cold-start technique works for some runners, but most of us need to warm up before running.

To get the scoop on whether a warm-up before running is a must-do or nice-to-have, we caught up with Polar athlete Will Leer. He’s a professional mid-distance track athlete with a USA Indoor National Championship title in both the 3000 meter and the mile.

Below, Leer discusses how he monitors his warm-up metrics and outlines some of his go-to exercises and techniques. Let’s just say, his warm-up pace is many runners’ dream race pace.

Why Should Runners warm before Running?

While I am not a doctor, the commonly held belief is that warming up drastically reduces the occurrence of injuries, be it muscle, tendon or bone.

I have never heard of someone getting hurt from a warm-up, but after skipping warm-up – yes. If your goal is performance-oriented, I’d say warming up before running is essential.

Do Pros Warm up before running?

Many runners often come back to the question: “What do pros do?”

Well, every professional runner I know do some sort of warm-up before running or at the very least “warms up into a run”. That means that if you don’t want to (or don’t have time to) do a set of dedicated warm-up exercises, you should start your run at a substantially slower pace than you finish.

How Do you warm up before Running?

I mostly do the same warm-up routine before every single run, including leg swings, light core exercises and lunges. You can’t go wrong with any of those. Whether it’s an easy, recovery run, workout or race, the exercises are the same.

The goal is to wake up the body, make sure my body is awake on a neuromuscular level and minimize injuries to the best of my ability.

For shorter, more intense workouts, my warm-up will always include the same warm-up exercises but then maybe five to six miles of running starting off easy and progressing the pace.

For longer, threshold type workouts, we tend to stick to the standard three miles or 20 minutes of easy jogging.

When cooling down, I focus on active-isolated stretching.

Do You Track Your warm-up Sessions?

When I am doing the running portion of my warm-up, usually 20 minutes of easy jogging before any hard session, I monitor my heart rate to make sure it doesn’t get too high and running pace to make sure I am not going too slow.

In the easy to read interface, my running watch tells me which HR zone I am in and how fast I am running. Generally, my warm-up pace is between 6:40/mile and 7:30/mile with a HR under 140 bpm.

For How Long Should You warm up before running?

The most general warm-up is 20 minutes of easy jogging, but if that doesn’t work for you, feel free to do more or less depending on what your body needs.

This is also another component of doing workouts to prepare for racing: You have to find what works best for you — everyone is different, embrace your uniqueness.

What should you focus on while warming up Before running?

I’m a big fan of mixing things up. As you experiment with different types of warm-ups, certain things will stick out as being most beneficial.

Ask yourself:

  • Does incorporating three to four minutes of threshold running at the end of your 20-minute jog help to give your heart rate a quick spike and really feel like your engine is ready to fire? Or does it make your legs and body feel sluggish?
  • Do 15-second sprints allow your legs to reach a more full range of motion and make race pace feel like a breeze? Or are you left breathing heavily and wishing you’d simply done some light stretching?

My main focus in a warm-up before running is keeping the feel light, bright and positive. Inevitably, there is something hard following the warm-up, so just get ready to get TOUGH!

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

Should You Stretch Before Running?

Ah, the age-old debate: Should you stretch before running or after your run? Opinions aside, Dr. William Roberts sheds light on when and how runners should stretch.

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