Setting a Warm-up Routine – You’ll Run Better and Feel Better Doing it

I don’t want to waste energy. I’m really late and the gun is JUST about to go off. I don’t really need to. I’m just plain lazy.

All reasons, ahem excuses, that people give for not wanting to do a warm-up. The energy wasting one is something that I’m sure even the most seasoned vet is guilty of when they first started out, I knew I fell for that one in my first few meets. Or I guess back then I was probably also just lazy too. Though this is one of the biggest fallacies even though common sense might lead you to plead a case for it.

runners on hill

One of these doesn't belong, can you guess which one? :)

Physiologically your body CAN’T perform at its best going from 0 to 60 the second the gun goes off. Sadly we are not a high performance sports car that all the macho guys drive, peel out, and feel like ‘the man.’ Rather, our muscles burn glucose (energy) most efficiently if you gradually work into that faster pace. Not only will you be running faster if you’ve warmed up but it will actually feel easier too. [the same rules apply for the actual race, and that's why it's smarter to run negative splits; go out at one pace and pick up the pace as the race progresses, make that closing mile/lap your fastest]

What constitutes a good warm-up? Well, that is different for everyone and it’s a matter of finding one that fits with you. Still, there are some general ingredients to add to this recipe; I’ll just put out what worked for me when I was racing. Another couple of things; the other major benefit of having a warm-up routine set out is once you find the perfect recipe for YOU, stick to it. Keeping the same routine helps eliminate variables for the race but it also helps mentally.

serious runner

Art Credit: Cait Chock Designs

The routine helps keep some of those nerves at bay. For me, the day before and of a race I’d try to limit thinking about the race too much to avoid getting overly nervous. But once I started my warm-up that’s when I started to really focus again. During my warm-up I’d mentally run through my race plan, think about staying relaxed, calm, and remembering what I wanted to accomplish for the race.

The routine, my body knew it and could go through it on auto-pilot, it was known, familiar, and that was reassuring. It also allowed my mind to focus on the race at hand. Another reason why I was able to run through it all on auto-pilot is I did basically the same thing before hard workouts. Just as with other aspects of training, come race day you want to limit any variables. So practice what you’ll be doing come the actual day.

Finally, with timing, I usually liked to start 50-45 minutes before I had to get to the line. I’m also really anal, and would rather err on the side of being early to the line rather than feeling rushed or heaven forbid not make it!

Here is a little sample or rough guideline to get you started:

* 2 miles easy: Keep this easy and you want to actually be overly warm if anything; that’s why even in hot conditions you’ll see people layered up in sweats. You want those muscles as warm as possible before you strip down to that singlet. People vary how long they run, but you want it to be at least 10 minutes.

* Drills and stretching: After the running I’d do some static stretches then move into a set routine of drills (think quick feet, A skips, butt kickers) to get my feet moving fast and work on turnover. I’d then do dynamic stretches, mostly leg swings. Keep the sweat on and I liked to keep moving around.

* Strides: After drills I’d then do 4-6 strides, 60-100 meters long. The last few I’d do faster than race pace, staying controlled and keeping good form.

* Stripping down and spiking up: Time to take off the sweats, I’d usually be so hot by this point I couldn’t wait to get rid of all the sweats. Then change into the shoes I’d be racing in.

* Head to the line and last strides: Then time to get to the line, I’d usually do one or two last short strides and then time to go!

race

Art credit: Cait Chock Designs - Inspiration: Mamma Nappy's amazing cookies! :)


I know that cross country season is well underway, so good luck to all those racing! I also know there are tons of people signing up and training for road races; for some it are their first races and I thought about posting this because I had been hearing from some that they didn’t even know what a warm-up was, so I hope this can help them out and do their best come the big day. :)

1) Do you do a warm-up routine before your races or hard workouts? If so, what?

2) Name one reason people may not want to warm-up?
The first time I went to a junior high meet (mind you I didn’t train at all before, that was an ugly 400…haha) my mom suggested it but I thought she was insane. I also didn’t want to look like a weirdo being the only kid running around before the actual race. Gotta love self-consciousness and peer pressure.

3) Happy Wednesday, what was your workout?
11 mile run outside and core, I’m slowly feeling better going sans tready…yay. :)

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13 thoughts on “Setting a Warm-up Routine – You’ll Run Better and Feel Better Doing it

  1. yay! so glad you are loving your outdoor runs :) i am about to head home to grab the pup and find a canyon somewhere for a 3-4 miler. hoping for the best as I have not taken the pup in a while and have not ran outside at altitude in about 3.5 weeks. eeek.

    i used to be terrified to warm-up because i would be so nervous for the race…even thinking about running or moving made me more anxious. haha. i still do not necessarily have a routine but i definitely run some lightly…longer before a 5k and then less as the race distance increases. i like your idea of having a routine and would like to develop one of my own. do you suggest have a different routine for different race distances?

    hope you are having a good week!

    • GREAT question julia and i’m so happy u put it out there! okay, i would suggest keeping the same warm-up routine for any hard workout or race you do EXCEPT if the race is a half-marathon or longer. for all the shorter distances i’d stick to what i said above, but for the much longer races here is what i would change: just make the amount of time you are doing your easy running shorter. that is because for the much longer races, typically you will be starting out conservative enough that the first few miles of the race will act as a booster to your warm-up. so for your marathon coming up for example, doing just 8-10 minutes of easy running is enough. i’d still recommend doing stretches, some drills, and one or two strides at the line, so just vary the amount of time you are running beforehand. :) PS- but i would STILL make sure to do some super easy running and not start the race cold!!

      i hope that adjustment back to altitude is going well….i’m sure it might not be the most fun thing the first few times out, but luckily because u’ve lived up there for so long u will adjust much faster than most!!

      so glad u had an AWESOME trip!!! :)

    • i’ve seen u starting to do that warm-up and i’ve been happy to see it! :) even if it’s just a mile, it’s definitely helping ur workouts. if u do try some of the other suggestions let me know how it goes! :)

  2. Yay, 11 miles without the treadmill is great!!! I’m in the same boat as Julia and Vanessa, for my first 1/2 marathon and marathon I couldn’t fathom running extra time and I thought it would be detrimental to my race. My last 1/2 marathon I jogged about 10 minutes and stretched before getting into my corral and it felt great! For my training runs, I tend to just use the first mile as my “warm-up” mile and know it will be way slower than the rest and then do some quick stretching on the side of the road (only sometimes stretching…woops). As my running experience and knowledge grows I realize just how important warming up is! I need to start having a set routine though!! I like your warm-up routine for shorter distances and cross training days and will be sure to include it!!!!

    • thanks for the congrats! and don’t feel bad, i think we all thought warming up was insane when we first started out. but doing that 10 min job before your last 1/2 did ur body good. :)

  3. Sadly, I am one of those guilty of not warming up (other than starting out slower than usual). My excuse is that I’m already starting at 4:00 a.m., and I can’t fathom getting up any earlier. You have made me see, though, that it is important. Thanks for the suggestions and tips!

    • ummm, wow, ya, i guess there should be a little 4am disclaimer there!!! u are even more amazing for that! buuut, for races and hard workouts it would benefit u to warm-up. though, for easy runs u don’t need to, just do like u do and ease into the runs. :) GOOD LUCK out there on sunday!

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