What Makes A Good Warm Up?

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It’s easy to overlook the importance of a good warm up. After all, it’s just the opening act before the real thing. But if you skip or skimp on your pre-run routine, you risk poor performance and injury.


A proper warmup increases heart rate, breathing rate, and blood flow to the muscles. It prepares the body for increasingly vigorous activity, allows it to work more efficiently, and reduces injury risk by loosening you up.

What makes a good warmup?

It’s a common question. If you’re doing the same routine before every run and every race, you’ve already made your first mistake.

Simply taking adequate time to warm up isn’t enough – —you have to match the level of preparation to the intended effort. For instance, the faster you’ll be running or racing, the longer and more thoroughly you should warm up. But the effort shouldn’t be so tiring that you wear yourself out before the starting line.

Here’s how to get ready for every kind of run.


Easy and moderately paced runs -—and even those that start slow before picking up, such as progressive tempos – —don’t require much warmup. But they do require some movement to introduce your body to running, especially if you’ve just rolled out of bed, it’s cold out, or you’re achy.


Walk one or two blocks to loosen your muscles and joints.

When you do start running, start out really easy and gradually speed up until you’re at your normal, easy-run pace. This usually takes about a 1km, but it can take longer if you’re tired or sore.


To prepare for the rigors of hard training sessions such as speed work, you should ideally do a 20- to 40-minute warm up. Properly warmed up, you’ll be able to hit your target paces from the outset of your repeats. ”

Most runners start speed sessions with an inadequate warm up. The body is thus ill-prepared to adequately transport oxygen and offset the by-products of fast running, so it’s harder to generate the power to run at goal pace.


  • Walk for two minutes, then jog at a conversational pace for 15 to 20 minutes to raise your heart rate.
  • Loosen and activate your muscles with five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretches and form drills such as lunges, skipping, and high-knees running.
  • Then run 800 meters at moderate intensity (a little slower than your 10-K race pace), and do two to four 100-metre strides.
  • Beginners or those pressed for time can eliminate the form drills and 800-meter run.


Why warm up for a treadmill workout, when you could just walk or jog slow on the ‘mill?

Treadmills can be hard on the calves and Achilles, so spending less time on them by warming up on another machine can lower your injury risk, and you’ll avoid muscle-group imbalances caused by doing nothing but running.


  • Gyms present an abundance of options.
  • Start with 10 minutes on a low-or no-impact cardio machine.
  • Add a few one-minute segments at a harder effort until you reach 15 minutes. Immediately switch to the treadmill and increase the speed until you reach your regular running pace.
  • If you’re doing an interval or hill-repeat workout, run at your regular pace for an additional five to 10 minutes before tackling the hard stuff.


With all the things you need to accomplish before your race starts – —pick up your number, use the porta-loo, chat with friends— – it’s easy to shortchange your warm up. But you need time before your race to get your body ready for race pace. That’s why we recommend arriving at least one hour before the start. This gives you time to take care of everything, including a relaxed warm up, without going into panic mode.


  • Get all the logistics out of the way at least 30 minutes before the start, then do a warm up suited to the distance you’re racing (See “Primed to Race” below).
  • Begin with easy jogging.
  • Add in a few light stretches, and then do several 100-meter strides, accelerating smoothly to race pace.

Primed to Race

Generally, the distance of your event determines the length of your warm up. Shorter races such as 5-Ks and 10-Ks require longer warm ups because you need to hit a faster pace right from the start. Marathoners and half-marathoners can use the first km or two of the race to ease into goal pace. Here’s how to match the warm up to the effort.


  • WALK OR JOG 15-30 minutes
  • STRIDES 8 x 100 metres


  • WALK OR JOG 10-15 minutes
  • STRIDES 6-8 x 100 metres


  • WALK OR JOG 10 minutes
  • STRIDES 4-6 x 100 metres


  • WALK OR JOG 5-10 minutes; or first km of the race
  • STRIDES 0-4 x 100 metres

RUN BETTER Before a race, perform part of your warm up, such as 100-metre strides or easy jogging, on the final stretch of the course so you can visualize finishing.

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2 Responses to What Makes A Good Warm Up?

  1. Tyler February 4, 2014 at 4:00 am #

    I am in track and I am going to do the 2-mile race this year. How long should I warm up and what else do I need to do before the race starts so I can get ready?

  2. Paige February 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    My daughter bought me a golf ball muscle roller to roll my muscles for before and after i run, really helps limit the soreness of my muscles. Anyone else use one?. http://zzathletics.com/Golf-Ball-Muscle-Roller-Massager-GBMR1.htm

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