4 MIN READ

Why You Need to Master the Pre-Run Warm-up Before Training

 

by lululemon editors

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When you’re in the zone and ready to run, it can be tempting to head straight out, full speed ahead. But a pre-run warm-up is essential for so many reasons.

 

Not only will a good warm-up reduce the risk of injury, it can also boost your performance significantly – ideal if you’re chasing PBs or training for a race [link to marathon piece]. 

Here’s everything you need to know about running warm-ups, including their benefits, the risks of not warming up properly and some useful tips on how to warm up most effectively before you hit the pavement. 

The benefits of warming up before running

Where to start...there are so many important benefits to warming up before you set off on your run.

· Reduces the chance of injury 

Warming up gets your blood pumping to your muscles and joints. It also increases muscle elasticity, which means you’re less likely to pull a muscle – and generally less likely to feel sore the next day. Which makes sticking to your new running habit so much easier.

· Minimises stress on your heart 

Slowly increasing your heart rate means there’s less stress on your heart than if you go all-out from the very start. That’s an important consideration if you’re a beginner – go easy on yourself.

· Gets you mentally prepared 

If you dive straight into a run, you won’t be giving yourself time to properly get in the zone, which is especially important before a long run or a race. A focused mind will help you to quieten those negative voices in your head telling you to stop and that it’s too hard. It’s not. You can do it. Long story short, a warm-up should be part of everyone’s running training.

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What happens if you don’t warm up?

Think of everything we’ve just said, but the opposite. Missing a warm-up can make you more prone to injury, which could lead to time out of fitness training. It can also hinder your performance, which can lead to feelings of frustration and discouragement, which is the last thing you want when you’re new to training or trying to keep fit.

How long to warm up for

This depends on the length of your run. For a short run, you may only need to spend a couple of minutes warming up to get your blood flowing and to warm your muscles, while for longer runs you’ll want to spend 10 minutes or more easing into it and stretching and activating your muscles properly.

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How to warm up body and mind before running

1. Warm up – literally 

Get your heart rate going and your body temperature rising with a couple of minutes of brisk walking or a light, easy jog, march or skip. This is about gently and gradually easing your body into workout mode, so take it slow to begin with.
 

2. Stretch 

We don’t mean a minute of static stretches before you head off – we're talking about dynamic stretches. Some of the best running warm-up stretches are lunges, leg swings, backward jogs, side steps, heel kicks and jumping jacks, which increase your range of movement and switch on your muscles, ligaments, and tendons ready for the run.
 

3. Practise some strides 

After your warm-up, do a few short runs that begin to open up your stride length and prepare your body for the intensity it will be working at. Try 100m or so and repeat two or three times. This will help your body transition from walking to running mode.
 

4. Target specific tight spots 

If you’re prone to tightness in certain areas or you’ve noticed a new tight spot recently, make sure you work on these areas a little more; roll your feet on a golf ball, or your glutes on a hockey ball. Just make sure those tight spots are feeling nice and loose before you run.
 

5. Fuel up 

The right fuel before your run is important. This is very specific to you so play around with different ideas to see what you enjoy and what has a positive impact on how you feel and perform. Also, you don’t want to be going out for a run on a too-full or too-empty stomach. As a general rule, eat something that is easily digestible with a good blend of simple and complex carbohydrates, plus a little protein. Your go-to meals pre-run should depend on the intensity of the run, and the length of time between when you eat and when you run. For example, if you have a little more time to digest your meal (one hour or more), go for eggs and spinach. If you don't have long (less than one hour), opt for a banana, or a slice of toast and peanut butter.
 

6. Plan your route 

This provides you with a goal before you step out. It is very easy to just go for a run and turn back when you start to struggle. Planning a route gives you motivation to finish, and gives you a goal to work towards as you try to complete it quicker the next time you run. Now you’re ready to get out there. There are so many reasons to warm up before running, and it only takes a few minutes, so there’s no excuse not to. You’ll find your runs so much more enjoyable, too. Discover more running tips and inspiration on our run training hub. For some warm up gear check out our women’s running clothes like these running leggings, and men’s running clothes.