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Effective Warm-Up Routines for Runners: Maximizing Performance Across Different Race Distances

Warming up is something a lot of us don't often question. We tend to stick to some version of what we learned at one time or another, and sometimes it's not the best warm-up for the event we're about to tackle. I started running when I was a teen and did track and cross country with a club, so I learned that warming up is kind of a long activity. I remember we would start our warm-up 45-60 minutes before our race, and it included several parts: some easy running, some drills, some flexibility work, and then some fast running. When I joined a team as an adult, I was mostly running 5k, and the warm-up we used was similarly long with several steps. But at some point, between my high school track years and my varsity cross-country years, I decided to run a marathon. I didn’t belong to any club while I was training for my first two marathons and didn’t have a coach or a goal, but I kind of remembered my high school track warm-up experience and was doing some version of that. It was only once my varsity coach found out that I was warming up for 45 minutes before my marathon race that I learned it was excessive.


So, what makes a "good" warm-up, and why would you do different ones for different races? Your warm-up gets you ready to run the speed you want to in the workout or race. Your race pace will feel easier, or you'll run faster, once you're warmed up. And without a thorough warm-up for a short distance race, you might finish the race feeling like you were just getting started and need a few more kilometers to pass those competitors in front of you! So then why was my 45-minute marathon warm-up not appropriate for the marathon? After all, I was ready to run my marathon race pace right from the gun.


In longer events, you have to worry about your glycogen stores and making sure they last as long as possible. Although my logic was probably fine about being ready to run fast, it didn't help when I would hit that wall. I also didn’t know anything about fueling and didn't eat a single gel until a few marathons later (maybe the subject of a different post). My coach at the time eventually told me to keep my warm-up short, and in recent years, I've settled on a 10-minute warm-up for marathons: 5 minutes of jogging, followed by 5 minutes at marathon race pace. The rest of the warming up happens in the first few kilometers of the race.


In general, the shorter the race, the longer the warmup, because you need to be ready to run fast right from the start, and you're not worried about fuel stores. For anything up to 10km, I go for a full warm-up with a 15-20 minute jog, a 3-minute tempo pickup, drills, and mobility, and then anywhere between 4 and 8 strides. I usually start at least 45 minutes before the races start, and sometimes an hour before so that I get a last-minute bathroom break somewhere between the jog and the drills. So what about a half-marathon?


This is variable. In theory, your glycogen stores last about 90 minutes of moderately hard running, so whether you warm-up as if you're running the marathon or as if you're running a 10k will somewhat depend on your goal finish time. If the half-marathon is going to take you more than 90 minutes to complete, maybe you'll want to stick to a shorter warm-up. The thing is, the pace for a 90-minute half-marathon is pretty fast. Personally, I'm not sure I could run that pace without a longer warm-up, so I personally opt for a similar warm-up to the one I do for 10k or less, but maybe shorten the jog to about 10 minutes. If you're running closer to 2 hours for the half-marathon, then I say treat it like a marathon and keep the warm-up short.


It's worth mentioning that the warm-up routine and length will also evolve with your running experience. If you're running any distance with the goal of completing the distance (as opposed to improving your time) then you might not do any running during your warm-up at all, regardless of the race distance. Someone that is running their first 5k for example, can do some walking and maybe some mobility exercises like leg swings as their warm-up, and save the running for the event itself. As you progress in your running journey and your fitness improves, having a longer warmup will ensure that you get the most out of your fitness during the race.


If you've enjoyed this dive into the art of the warm-up and want to share your thoughts or ask a question, jump into the comments below. How much do you warm-up before a marathon? What about a 5k? Don't forget to follow on Instagram and Facebook for more running insights and tips. Keep on running, and keep on improving – one warm-up at a time.

Photo: My husband, Andre, after he ran an almost 2 minute PB last weekend! It was a "great day at the office" for him.

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Membre inconnu
23 avr.

Personally I even feel 5 mins at marathon pace is a lot. I would probably do 2-3 mins

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24 avr.
En réponse à

You could be right 🤣

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