Running Warm Up: How and Why You should not skip it!

Let's talk about something that a lot of runner's take lightly: doing a warm up before you run!

Contrary to popular belief there is no scientific evidence that warming up before a run will actually reduce the risk of a running injury.

Does this mean that we should skip it all together?


Although the link is missing there are still some extremely important benefits that are derived from warming up and cannot be ignored.

Here the benefits of warming up before a run:

  • Warming up increases the blood flow to the muscles that are active. It gets the blood pumping! With limited or stagnant blood flow we aren’t going to go anywhere fast.
  • It increases the core temperature and muscle temperature. This seems to be one of the most important benefits as this increase in body temperature promotes the release of oxygen (via the Bohr Effect). Since running is an aerobic sport (meaning oxygen is needed) this is a necessary component.
  • It allows for greater muscle contraction and relaxation which in turn releases calcium into the muscles. This again is another essential component of exercise since without the release of calcium, our muscles will have a limited ability to contract and relax. That means we won't be able to run!
  • It makes the transition from resting to exercise more effective by increasing the metabolic reactions and allowing it to be a gradual process. Don’t expect to be able to go out and run a fast mile or four. You need to give your body that time to adjust.
  • It lowers the viscosity (or stiffness) in joints which will promote a greater range of motion, fluidity and less friction.
  • Increases the heart rate and blood pressure which leads to vasodilation that is the blood vessels will dilate to allow more blood to pass through. Once again it gets the blood pumping and us moving!
  • Perhaps the most vital component – warming up gives us the needed mental preparation. A lot of exercise requires us being in “the mood” and so the warm up will help you focus on the workout you are about to do. 

How to Warm Up Properly

When one thinks of a warming-up they often picture a runner on the sidelines stretching it out.

However there is a lot more thought that goes into creating an effective warm-up plan.

The structured warm up consists

  • a General Phase and 
  • a Specific Phase

The General Warm-Up

The general warm up is used to fulfill the 7 benefits of performing a warm-up before a run.

Basically, we want to get that blood pumping and our muscles nice and warm and ready to move! What we do not want to do is to reduce our energy reserves and cause fatigue. This should be energizing not energy zapping!

How long should the general warm-up last?

This general warm-up phase should last anywhere from 5-10 minutes and should consist of repetitive, low intensity movements. Walking, light jogging, slow jumping jacks, are all examples of repetitive movements. The idea is to just move and since we will be using our legs we want to do something that will increase blood flow to our lower extremities.

NOTE: Keep this phase to 10 minutes or less as the beneficial effects will begin to plateau any longer than this.

A lot of runners just like to keep their general warm-ups to a light jog. If you are looking for something different here are a few ideas.

  • Walking
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Slow Jump Rope
  • Skipping
  • High Knee Lifts


The Specific Warm-Up

The specific warm up consists of doing movements that are, like the name suggests, specific to running.

The most obvious is to keep with a light jog. Many runners will run for 5-10 minutes or use the first mile of their run as their warm up.

Here is where you may feel the urge to include some stretching. However be warned. You only want to participate in active dynamic stretching vs. static stretching

In Conclusion:

Don't skip the warm-up in your eagerness to get your run in the bag. Your warm-up becomes even more important when you are getting ready to do a speed workout or hill repeats

The benefits outweigh any amount of time that you think you don't have to warm up!

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