Pre run warm up – an easy way to avoid injuries and improve performance

pre run warm up

Every athlete knows that a good pre run warm up can make or break a training session or even a race. And I might have tested it myself this time.

I had a race this week and changed my marathon training schedule a bit to account for it. It was nothing big, 6K around Olympic park in Munich – call it a Thursday’s park run. I didn’t even do a full taper for it. It was more of an intense workout or a time trial type of situation.

I did an easy fartlek workout on Monday, and biked on Tuesday. The cherry on top was a 40 min yoga session the day before the race.

That last bit was totally unnecessary. The morning of the race I woke up and felt that my legs are as stiff and heavy as logs of wood.

Proper pre run warm up

Warm up can do wonders with muscles. They can make them race-ready even when they are still hangover from yesterday’s yoga party.

All the twisting, turning and limb moving speeds up blood flow, literally warms up muscles and extends their range of motion. All of it combined prevents injuries during the exercise and improves performance.

However you warm up, though, don’t do it like our grandfathers did – avoid stretching the muscle.

Pre run warm up should include only dynamic exercises, no stretches.

Stretching “cold” muscles only puts additional pressure on them and greatly increases the risk of strain and other injuries.

Pre run warm up exercises

All muscles in our bodies are connected, so pre run warm up should be done for the whole body to avoid overstressing some areas.

If I’m warming up for a race I usually do a short (around 5min) easy jog an hour before to emulate the motion. As I reach the end, I do a couple of build up strides to the intensity I will compete in. This warms up the body naturally.

After that I take a rest for 15-20 min and proceed with warm up exercises for every muscle group. This ensures every part of the body is ready for the race.

For a standard pre run warm up you can skip the first part and only do 5-10min of exercises below.

Begin with the biggest muscle groups and work your way to smaller ones:

  • Start with legs  do side and front swings, knee raises and butt kicks. Pay special attention to ankles, hips and knees and rotate them as much as possible to warm up the joints
  • Move on to torso and do circles with it, perform bends to the front, back, sides and to each leg
  • Proceed to upper body and do arm and shoulder circles, as well as elbow and palm twists
  • Finish off with jumping jacks to have some fun

You can spend any amount of time on it, but don’t overdo it. Before a race I do around 20min of this. After that I usually eat half of a banana or some dried fruits to top up the glycogen I’ve used and that’s it.

My pre run warm up before the race

Now back to my race. As it was in the afternoon, I had time to take in proper nutrition throuout the day and walk off some of the stiffness.

I’ve spent at least 40 min prior to the race warming up every muscle and relieving stiffness and soreness. After an easy 2-3 min run I skipped the build up strides and relied only on twists, turns and swing, nothing else.

It all worked out and, to my surprise, I blasted off the start faster than I’ve imagined. I think I did the best I could – my 5K time was around 19:30 with 1K still to go. Speed endurance training block I did before definitely helped, as I improved my time since last year by at least 3 min.

Logically, I shouldn’t have done yoga right before the race. At that point it’s only gentle stretching that should be done.

However, I wanted to try it out to see the immediate result and understood the value of a proper pre run warm up like never before. It was so good, actually, that after the race I even felt feel that my legs had still some juice in them.

My marathon training progress

So far only my long run is up to the level – this week I did a half marathon at an easy pace, but with muscles still in recovery mode after the race it was tougher than I expected.

I’ll need to increase my overall weekly mileage by quite a bit. So far I spent a lot of time running 5-6K workouts and intervals to prepare for this run. I will focus now purely on the marathon and distance.

Done for this week, let’s see what next week will bring!

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