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The Best Way to Warm Up For A Training Run

Posted by Jason Sissel
The Best Way to Warm Up For A Training Run

When we are feeling fired up for a run, it can be tempting to give in to enthusiasm and take off at speed. And when we have limited time in a busy schedule to train, warming up first can feel like a waste of time. But running without warming up not only increases the risk of injury, but it also increases soreness and recovery time, and will undermine your ability to be consistent and achieve your long-term goals. When training for a marathon or other endurance activity, the warm up is crucial to safety and success. Let’s explore why and how to best warm up.

Benefits of warming up

Warming up slowly increases the functioning of your cardiovascular system, minimizing stress on your heart and lungs as you begin to work them harder. It dilates blood vessels, oxygenating muscles and preparing them for exertion. And it raises your body temperature, increasing the efficiency and flexibility of muscles and tendons.

A warm up also boosts the mind-body connection, and is the ideal time to consciously focus on form and body mechanics.

As many as 79% of runners get injured every year, and most injuries can be attributed to stresses from training too much too soon, or from poor form causing unnecessary or uneven strain. A proper warm-up will reduce both of these risks and allow you to run faster and further. It's worth the time.

How to warm up

Decades ago, runners were advised to warm up with a series of static stretches. However, research has shown that static stretches are insufficient to warm up the cardiovascular system, and don't sufficiently raise the body temperature before exercise.

Many runners simply start off slowly, jogging for a few minutes before increasing speed. But this doesn't take the body through the range of motion that warms tendons and ligaments, and if a person has poor form, it simply increases the repetitive strain.

The best way to warm up is with a series of dynamic movements, that take the body through a full range of motion and get it sufficiently warm.

Be mindful during your warmup, and pay attention to your body.

Take this opportunity to:

  • focus on your core for lower back support and upper body posture
  • strengthen your hips in order to protect your knees and shins
  • monitor your form in your neck and shoulders

A warmup routine should include 5-10 minutes of walking or easy jogging, followed by dynamic stretches. While there are many dynamic movements that are excellent for a warmup routine, here are some great ones that don't require special equipment and can be done anywhere:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Pillar bridge
  • Glute Bridge
  • Forward and reverse lunges
  • Running in place with high knees
  • Squat jumps

After 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches, begin your run, but start easily and vary the movement. Perform weave steps, skip, or run backwards for a few intervals before running at your sustainable pace, and build speed gradually. Altogether, it should be 15-20 minutes into your workout before you hit the training speed that you intend to sustain.

Spend more time on your warm up if you are sore or new to running, or if it's early morning on a cold day. In the afternoon or in warm weather, your core temperature will be higher, so the warmup routine can be abbreviated to 5-10 minutes, but never skip it.

You will perform better, feel better, and avoid injury by taking care of your body with every step of your training. A solid warmup is essential for long term success and endurance. Keep it brief, make it fun, and make it a part of every run.

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