Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Warmup

There are times during training cycles when motivation is low. No doubt, it happens to everyone. But this is where self-discipline plays a critical role in meeting your big goal.  Lace up and just get out the door. Many times, that is half the battle for me. Start putting one foot in front of the other. Nine times out of ten, by time I finish a warmup, my heart is in it and the workout falls into place.

This past week, I had the dreaded one-mile intervals on my schedule. Ugh. It is so hard to sprint a mile, repeatedly. It's serious work for me, and I don't enjoy it. I headed out for my run with the full intention of blowing off the sprints. After a two mile warmup, I decided to go for it.  3 x one mile at 8:11 pace was what the training plan asked. I didn't quite hit the pace mark (8:29, 8:19, 8:32) but was pleased considering the wind and rolling hills I stormed up. There is no way I could of hit those paces without a proper warmup... both mentally and physically.

Many runners skip the warmup phase, but I am a full-hearted believer.  In the age of Garmin-tracked and DailyMile-reported runs, no one wants slow miles to bring down their average pace. But I'm here to tell you, working a warmup into your daily routine can enhance your performance and help keep you injury-free.

The warmup minimizes heart stress by gradually increasing your heart rate rather than shocking it. Breathing is easier to control when you build the tempo with your steps.  A warmup will raise your body temperature and loosen muscles so they may function more properly and avoid pulled muscles upon exertion. Finally, blood flow to your muscles is at optimal level and properly supplied with oxygen when it's go-time for your workout.

So, how exactly does one warmup?
Easing into your workout, a warmup is slower pace exercise that prepares your body for the physical activity to follow. In essence, it loosens you up.  My warmup differs based on the type of workout on deck. Here's some examples of what I might do...

Easy/Long Runs:  I start off with a slow trot, gradually increasing to a run at conversational pace for 10-15 minutes. This should feel slow, especially when your legs are fresh. If you're experiencing any issues with sore or strained muscles, this is a perfect time to stop and stretch them so that the rest of your run goes smoothly. (Don't ever stretch cold muscles!)  My personal rule of thumb is that my first mile split should always be my slowest.

Tempo Run: Similar to the Easy/Long Run above; however, I use two full miles for my warmup. I want to make sure my muscles are fully ready for the vigorous tempo paces.

Interval Runs:  Like the tempo, I use two miles to warmup the muscles. Then I run through a series of form drills: lunges, skipping, high-knee lifts and butt kicks. I usually do 100m of each down the track.

Treadmill Runs:  I find my knees and calves take a beating when I run on the treadmill. So instead of pounding out miles on the hamster wheel, I warmup on the elliptical, bike or other non-impact machine. You may miss out a mile or two on your weekly mileage, but this practice keeps me feeling healthy.

Race Day!  Get to the race early and take care of all the details - packet pickup, potty stop, photos with friends, etc.  If you are gunning for a PR time goal, I can't express the importance of a race day warmup. Take a good 10 minutes to warmup immediately before the race start.  General rule is the shorter the race, the longer the warmup. In a 5K, you're going to go out fast from the very start; whereas, in a marathon, you can use the first mile as part of your warmup. My race day warmup consists of easy jogging, stretches, and series of faster strides. Use your physical warmup to also mentally prepare for the task at hand... Visual your race execution. Repeat your mantras for the last time before the gun goes off. Find your BEAST mode.

It Works!
I can recount several recent times where a warmup paid big dividends in a race. Last August, I rode my bike 7.5 miles to the starting line of a local 5k.  I ran an unbelievable race, smoking my previous PR by nearly 2 minutes to snag first place in my age group. Seriously, the warmup works!

I challenge you to pay attention to your WARMUP this week.
Make it the slowest mile of your run. Run Happy and Injury-Free!
Do you currently utilize a warmup in your runs? Any tips to share? 


  1. Thanks so much for the tips!! I have to admit that sometimes I hate to take the time to properly warm up, worrying about my overall pace, but you have made such good points about the absolute benefits of warming up properly!! Thanks Jess!!

  2. I love this post! I really needed to read this today!

  3. Agreed I have to get a warm up in first. Still nursing hip joint soreness so even more time spent warming up.

  4. LOVE this post. I totally agree, by the time I get out for a warm up jog i'm ready to attack my speed work!!

  5. I've actually been focusing more lately on trying to get in a proper warm up and I think it's helping me run better. When I would just jump in I think I felt more tired a lot sooner and the runs just felt harder. Way to preach the warmup! Amen!

  6. My current 5k PR came after 30 minutes of power shopping. I had errands to run, and wanted to get them done before the 2:00 race on NYE, so I power-shopped, then dropped a minute off my 5k time despite 27 mph winds and white-out snow at times. IT WAS AWESOME!

  7. I don't really do warming ups I suppose. As soon as I start to run, I'm doing the 'real thing'. Which to other people may very well look like just warming up...

  8. I really need to spend more time warming up! I have always been bad at it! I don't even usually stretch. Sheesh that's terrible but hey, I do yoga 2-3 times a week at least! lol

  9. Never thought of riding my bike to a 5K. That seems like such an obvious idea, but I've never done it! Probably not advisable for a Marathon, though, as the ride home would be excruciating ;)


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