Is Warming Up Before Running Needed?

By: Coach Mitchell

You get up, you get your shoes on and then off you go for a run. That’s the beauty of running! You don’t need much in terms of equipment, you don’t need to rely on anyone but yourself. Another positive is that you can generally do it anytime you want! The ease of being able to get in a run session is very nice but there is a catch twenty-two, and that is athletes being careless and not taking the time to properly warm up before they go out for a run. Many athletes don’t think this is a big deal but it contributes to the high injury rate for running and is something seen time and again in athletes.

How do you warm up for running though? It is a lot easier than you think!

Increase Your Heart Rate

There are a few things to keep in mind when warming up. The first thing is that you want to make sure your warm-up does increase your heart rate. The length and intensity of the workout will dictate how much time you need to spend warming up. If the workout is made up of short intervals then generally this means higher intensity levels, which will require a longer warm-up. Less intensity will mean a shorter warm-up.

A good way to increase your heart rate to prime your body’s system for what you are about to do would be to get a jog of anywhere from 5-10 minutes at a moderate pace. This does not need to be complicated, just move for 5-10 minutes.

Include Dynamic Range of Motion Exercises

After you’ve gotten your heart rate up, your next focus will be to take your joints through similar range of motions to what you will be doing during your workout. With running your hips, knees and ankle joints are doing the majority of the work. You can include some dynamic range of motion (DROM) exercises that focus on these areas. Check out this video that includes some ideas for your warm up: DROM for Warm-Up

Power Up with Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises are also great to add into a running warm-up. Plyometric exercises focus on jumping or plyo exercises in which the muscles are asked to perform a near maximum force in a short burst with the goal being to increase your power output.

Sprint Varying Distances and Intensities

So you’ve jogged, you’ve done your dynamic range of motion exercises and some plyometric exercises, now are you ready to go out and run? I’d say you are pretty close. The last thing that I like to include in a running warm up are some sort of running sprints. These don’t have to be all out efforts, and they can vary in distance as well as intensity, but this is a nice way to prime yourself for different pacing in your work out. Here are two examples of running sprints to add to the end of your running warm up:

Example #1

Run 3 sets of suicide sprints, increasing your intensity with each one. Run 10 meters out and back, 20 meters out and back, 30 meters out and back, 40 meters out and back and finally 50 meters out and back.

Perform the first one at about 60% max effort, the second one at 70% max effort and the final one at 80% max effort.

Example #2

Sprint 50 meters @ 60% effort

Rest as needed

Sprint 50 meters @ 70% effort

Rest as needed

Sprint 50 meters @ 80% effort

Rest as needed

Sprint 50 meters @ 90% effort

Now you are ready to go out and run! The warm up should take somewhere between 15-20 minutes. Yes, there are always more things that you can include like foam rolling and banded stretches for activation purposes, but I’d suggest sticking to the basics that are mentioned above. Start with a jog, perform some dynamic range of motion exercises, some sprints and off you go for your run.