Living in a time-poor society, many of us are guilty of arriving at a training session or race, jumping straight in and wondering why we don’t automatically feel energised and zippy. This is because we need to warm-up.
A warm-up is essential for gently opening up your capillaries and allowing more oxygenated blood to get to your muscles. Warming up also increases the production of synovial fluid, which reduces friction in the joints, as well as preparing your mind to perform.
For more expert training advice on running techniques click the links below:
Easy run warm-up
Unless you're working to a specific rehab routine we do not recommend holding static stretches before you run. They can create micro tears in the muscle, limiting your performance.
For easy runs keep it simple and start with a really slow jog or even brisk walk easing into your pace through the first 5-10 minutes.
If you really feel like you need to get your muscles switched on consider a glute activation routine
Shorter races and training sessions can be intense. If you’re aiming for a PB or top training performance, your warm-up needs to be progressive. Without a full warm-up you will likely find it hard to hit those limits and even risk picking up an injury.
Begin with a 10-minute warm-up jog that gradually builds intensity. Start slowly and run five minutes easy, five minutes steady and then a few minutes close to your race pace. You can’t afford to feel rusty at the start of these races and sessions - you need to be ready to roll straight away.
You should now be ready to complete some drills and strides. Aim to complete these over a 10-20 metre area and jog lightly back after each effort.
Strides are the final step and really help to hit your pace in the first mile. Find a 60-70 metre area where you run several sets, focusing on good technique. Start at 60 per cent max speed, run the second lap at 70 per cent, the third at 80 per cent and the fourth lap quicker than race pace.
Half marathon warm-up
Those familiar to this distance will know that it can be at an intensity faster than your steady runs but never as hard from the offset as a 5K or 10K. Your warm-up doesn’t need to be as long but a jog that builds to your planned half marathon intensity is ideal.
10 minutes of running is enough, preserving energy and fuel for the race ahead. Look to complete just one set of each of the drills below and 3-4 controlled strides if you’re looking for a fast time. Consider putting on an old tracksuit or bin bag while you wait in the pen for the race to start.
The marathon is all about you against the distance and you need to protect your carbohydrate stores. We recommend no warm-up at all as you should use the first two to three miles to find your race pace and negotiate the early traffic if there are large numbers of runners. You have bags of time to gradually build to your race pace and then maintain it. Instead stay warm using old clothes and at most some light active stretching.
Stretch it out
A mix between active stretching and more powerful plyometric movements drills are perfect before harder races and training sessions. Do these drills over a 10-20 metre lap and repeat 2-3 times.
Strengthen and warm-up the achilles/calf muscle group and increase eccentric muscle strength. Place your foot on the ground with the toe/ ball of your foot first then lower weight through the heel to the ground. Walk out repeating alternately on each leg.
Strengthen dorsi flexion in the foot and lateral calf muscle groups. Focus on always bringing the toe towards the knee and keeping the leg straight. Kick out in short fast movements while retaining upper body lean and posture. Repeat alternately on each leg.
Develop your mechanical co-ordination and activate the hip flexor and calf muscles. Skipping involves a hop with each stride, your foot hits the ground twice in rapid succession whilst you drive the other knee up to about a 90 degree angle tapping your knee with the opposite arm before changing legs.
Increase hamstring dynamic flexibility, strength and range. Plant your heel on the ground and point the toe up, always keeping the leg straight. Sink your hips as though you’re about to sit on a chair. Sweep hands low as if touching or grabbing grass below. Keep the back straight and head up. Repeat alternately on each leg.