How To Warm Up For A Run for Performance and Safety

I know it’s tempting, but it’s bad news to start a run without a warm up!

Knowing how to warm up for a run is vital to:

  • Get your heart rate up to speed
  • Increase your breathing rate slowly and naturally
  • Expand blood flow to muscles
  • Get your body conditioned for the run at hand
  • Help prevent injury from stressing cold muscles, ligaments, and tendons

Getting your body warmed up and your mind concentrating on what you’re about to do can make the difference between the best performance and risking injury.

So, whether you’re running in the park or doing a marathon, getting the best warm up for a run is essential to peak performance.

But, that’s not all: Warming up will help you mentally.

This few minutes will get your mind in tune with your body to make the run the peak of your day.

How To Warm Up For A Run infographic with 6 different exercises
Doing stretches and warm-up exercises before a run is vital

Different Warm Ups for Different Runs

A warming up for beginner is just as important as for Boston marathons, just different.

Warming Up for Everyday Runs

These are usually the “easy” day. And the truth is you need warm muscles whether you are going around the block or a workout on the treadmill.

Whether you’re running on home workout equipment on these days or getting your time outside, these workouts are for:

  • Regular exercise
  • Staying fit
  • Regular training to keep your stamina up

Some people spend time stretching and limbering up before going for a run. And I am certainly not against that.

However, I use a different approach which gets me the same results: I start out with a walk that’s stretching out all the muscles in my body.

Whether you’re inside or outside, start out with a slow walk for a few minutes, or for a block or two.

After walking for a bit, your muscles and joints you should notice your mind clearing. Just ease into a slow jog and gradually increase your pace until you hit your normal speed.

And don’t crowd yourself by going straight from your walk to an all out run either.


When you go from a walk to a run, gradually step up your pace.

As you move from walking to running or jogging, go easy for about a half a mile or so.

Warming up this way, in graduated steps from a walk to your normal pace, gives your mind and body a chance to come together to ease into your own stride.

You will find that given the chance to warm up a little at the time, your body naturally carries you into your natural stride. It’s at this point that you can safely stretch your stride out and maybe re-train how fast you run.

How To Warm Up For a Run in Cold Weather

It’s important to remember that when it’s cold outside, your muscles are much tighter than in warm weather.

Without thoroughly warming your body in small increments, it’s much easier to wind up with sore and injured muscles and joints.

Warming up like this for my everyday runs allows puts me in control of my mind and body. I instinctively know exactly when to exert more energy, effort, and speed.

Warming Up for Speed Training

Careful is the word when you’re training for speed!

You’re going to need a more thorough routine for this type of run because you’re pushing your body harder.

Start out with at least a 5 minute walk, and then work into a jog that would allow for conversation. Jog in this conversational pace for fifteen or twenty minutes before working into a run.

When you build your running speed up very slowly like this, you’re filling your entire muscular and cardiovascular system with oxygen.

This oxygen rich blood will help with clearing out lactic acid as it occurs. After your run, stretching is essential to clear the lactic acid and avoid tired and sore muscles.

After your running, you’ll want to stretch for five to ten minutes.

I find it best to do my stretching routine after the run. The last thing I want to do is stretch cold muscles and wind up with injuries before I get started.

Read about Stretching After A Run for a guide to after running stretches to help with sore muscles.

Warming Up for a Race

On race days, plan on getting on the scene early enough for a proper warm up routine of easy jogging and light stretches.

Try doing 100 meter strides as you end each one at your race pace.

If you look around the race you will see many runners that don’t understand the importance of warming up before a run.

And without it, they are risking injury and their ability to perform at peak levels.

Don’t be fooled when it comes to warming up for short races either!

When you’re running a short race, you need to warm up longer and more thoroughly than you would for a longer race.

You need to have your body and mind ready for the gun immediately with short races: There’s no time allotted for easing into your top speed when the course is short.

If you’re doing a 5k race, you’ll want to jog for about 30 minutes, and probably leave 10 minutes for stretching before the starting gun goes off.

When it comes to longer races, like marathons, warming up depends on your own preferences. However, you don’t want to leave out time to warm your muscles and get the blood flowing.

Take about 10 minutes and then do stretches to get your muscles flexible.

Then you’ll be ready to use the first couple of miles of the race to warm up even more as you begin to feel out the course and other runners.

Running on a Treadmill

I know that some of you are running on a treadmill, at least some of the time, and a good warm-up is just as important inside for the treadmill as for outside runs.

One way is to start out on a stationary bike, or low impact cardio machine. Start out on low for the first 10 minutes and then increase your speed every minute or so.

Of course, that’s the optimum experience if you’re running at a gym.

However, if you’re running on a treadmill at home —  just gradually work your way up instead of lunging off at top speed. I’ve watched people in the gym go from the door to the treadmill and immediately set it for a fast jog or run?

To be honest, the chances for injury on a treadmill is just as much as running outside. So be patient to go slow, use patience to avoid pulled and sore muscles and injury.

Only after you’re thoroughly warmed up should you increase the speed right on up to your normal running speed.

Like running outside, if you intend to practice speed, you’ll want to run at your normal pace for about 10 minutes before increasing your efforts to run faster.

Warming Up is Essential for Running

Warming up is essential to any exercise or training program you undertake. If you’re running on a regular basis you should have a built-in mental and physical habit that makes up your warm-up routine.

Here’s Why Warming Up is So Important

When you get out of the bed your muscles and tendons are stiff and tight. Same thing if you’ve been sitting all day!

When you first get up your muscles are about 10% shorter than normal.  And believe it or not, with stretching, your muscles are elongating about 10% more than normal.

See where this is going? From the time you get up until the time you finish stretching and warming your muscles, there’s about a 20% difference in length. But why is this so important, you ask:

Well, according to experts, when your own muscles are elongated from stretching – they are much less prone to injury and tears.

And that’s not all: Those longer muscles can now exert more force with less effort.

That’s why developing the habit of warming up and stretching properly is vital to your success and safety as a runner.

Knowing How to Warm Up Properly for a Run is Key

The right way to warm up consist of walking or running very slowly so that your body eases into walking and then running before you break into the pace that’s comfortable for you.

Don’t forget that the intensity of your run following the warmup determines the duration of warming up.

Warming up for a run around the block is just as important as warming up for a 5k, but requires a different approach.

Don’t Rest After Warming-up

Don’t make the mistake of resting immediately after warming up!

Resting will completely eradicate all of your efforts and benefits of everything you did to warm up for a run.

Knowing how to warm up for a run will naturally reap the most enjoyment and best results in every way to enjoy man’s most normal exercise — running.

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