How Can a Running Warm-Up Help Optimize Performance?
It’s no secret that a running warm-up is important if it’s a race or the usual weekly run. But many runners don’t know why (or what to watch out for).
We’ve compiled a short list of the benefits of running warm-ups, tips on how to warm up properly and go-to running warm-up routines.
Find out below how running warm-ups improve your running performance. Check out the go-to warm-up routines at the bottom of the article!
1. Running warm-ups raise your body temperature
Dynamic warm-up exercises raise your body temperature by heating up your muscles. They also boost your metabolism and accelerate the supply of energy to your muscles.
2. Running warm-ups enhance muscle performance 
As your muscle temperature rises, your muscle viscosity (or resistance) decreases. This results in faster muscle contraction and relaxation, which enhances your performance.
3. Running warm-ups boost heart function
Your heart also benefits from warming up. The exercises increase your cardiac output and respiratory minute volume (RMV), thus expanding your VO2 max.
4. Running warm-ups improve the load distribution in your joints
Contrary to previous belief, new research has shown that even short-term exercise like warming up can help build joint cartilage. The thicker layer of cartilage increases the load-bearing surface and distributes loads more evenly.
5. Running warm-ups help prevent injuries
Warming up properly has been proven to minimize the risk of injury. It increases tissue and muscle flexibility and prepares your body to perform fast and explosive movements. Plus, you are less likely to pull or tear a muscle.
As an added advantage, warming up improves your mental focus and speeds up your reaction time.
Useful Running warm-up tips:
- Focus on those muscles that will do most of the work.
- The warm-up effect is short-lived, so keep warming up until the beginning of your race/run. Research has shown that your body temperature remains elevated for only about 10 minutes after you warm up and that after 45 minutes, all traces of your warm-up are gone.
- It may seem counterintuitive, but if you are warming up for a race, the shorter the race is, the longer your warm-up should be.
- Never start off with sprints or explosive movements. You should gradually increase the intensity of your warm-up.
- Your warm-up should never cross your anaerobic threshold.
In addition, there are several factors to consider when deciding on how long and how hard to warm up: the distance of the race/run, the time of day, the weather, your age and your physical fitness.
Most warm-up routines last somewhere between 10 and 45 minutes (for a race).
Unfortunately, there is no one-plan-fits-all approach to warming up. Try the suggested running warm-up routines below and see if they work for you:
- Try a running warm-up using resistance bands.
- Try elite marathoner Haile Gebrselassie’s top 5 running warm-up exercises.
- Also try including running drills in your running warm-up.
Warming up for a specific race?
Take a look at how to warm up for races of different distances (5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon).