Every athlete knows that a good pre run warm up can significantly improve performance during a training session or a race. And I might have tested it myself this time.

I changed my marathon training schedule in the past month a bit to include a race this week. It was nothing serious, 6 kilometers around the Olympic park in Munich – call it a Thursday park run.

I didn’t even do a full taper for it and considered it more of an intense workout / time trial type of situation. So, I did an easy fartlek workout on Monday, and biked on Tuesday and called that a recovery.

The cherry on top was a 40 min yoga session that I did the day before the race. I figured it will help relieve the muscle tension, but turned out to be a big mistake. Even though I didn’t do any intense stretching, I woke up the next morning and felt my legs are as stiff and heavy as logs of wood.

What is a pre-run warm up?

Pre run warm up can do wonders with muscles. It can make them race-ready even when they are still hungover from yesterday’s yoga party.

The purpose of the warm up is to increase the body temperature, relieve muscle tightness and improve the range of motions in the joints. All of this improves performance and significantly reduces the risk of injuries.

When the body is not warm enough then the effort is more anaerobic and muscles reach fatigue faster.

The whole process usually takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes (depending on the training session) and includes only dynamic movements.

Dynamic Pre run warm up
Stretching can be a part of a warm up, but it has to be very gentle and dynamic.

It’s important to do the warm up right before the training session or the start of the race. Throughout the warm up body’s temperature increases by around 1 or 2 degrees and it takes only 20 minutes of not doing anything for that temperature to drop back by 40%.

Besides that warm up is also the time to tune in with the body and mentally prepare for the training session or a race.

Without a proper motivation and mental preparation it’s hard to push the body to the limit.

Every athlete’s psychology is different and might include different tools, like music, self-talk, meditation, etc. It’s important to take the time to focus, so don’t be shy to put on your headphones, disconnect from the world and connect with yourself.

Dynamic pre-run warm up for best performance

Warm body is able to transport oxygen much faster to the working muscles, which sets the body up for maximum performance.

The whole process should include only dynamic movements. Static stretching and stretching “cold” muscles only puts additional pressure on them and greatly increases the risk of strain and other injuries.

A proper warm up for a race may take an athlete as much as 40 minutes.

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Start with a light jog

If I’m warming up for a race I usually do a short (5 to 10 minutes) veeery easy jog an hour before the start. The intensity is minimal and doesn’t go above Zone 1.

If you’re warming up for a training session, you can do 5-10min of exercises below and include a jog into the session itself.

Proceed with mobility and muscle activation exercises

All muscles in the body are inter-connected, so a pre run warm up should be done for the whole body to avoid over stressing some areas during the race.

Pay special attention to ankles, hips and knees and rotate them as much as possible to warm up the joints and realieve any tension.

10-15 minutes of twisting, turning and limb movement speeds up the blood flow, warms up the muscles and extends their range of motion. All of it creates magic that prevents injuries and improves performance.

Personally, I get the best results when I start with biggest muscle groups and work my way to the smallest ones. Left-to-right in the table below.

Lower bodyTorsoUpper body
Ankle circlesTorso circlesNeck circles
Knee circlesJumping oblique twistsShoulder circles
Waist circlesCat-cow flowWrist/palm circles
Leg swingsForward-backward bends Elbow twists
Hip rotationSide bendsArm circles
Downward dog to lungeBent over windmillsGerman arm swings

Finish off pre-run warmup with some running drills

At this point the body is warmed up and any tightness in the muscles or joints should be gone. Just before the start of the race or training session I like to do a couple of run drills and gradual speed pick up (less than 15 seconds) towards the race intensity.

I feel that this helps to activate the muscles and ‘warm up’ the cardiovascular system. It, kind of, minimizes the shock for the body at the start of the race.

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My first marathon training update

Update: I ran my first marathon and it was a roller coaster of emotions. Read my race report here, if you’re interested.

So, back to my race.

The start was at 17:00 and I had almost the whole day to walk off some of the stiffness and take in proper nutrition to minimize any pain.

Before the start I spent at least 40 minutes on gently mobilizing every muscle in my body. It was a hot day, so I did a very short 2-3 minute jog and skipped the drills and strides.

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

Obviously, I shouldn’t have done yoga right before the race. I would be better off just doing easy mobility exercises. But hey, I wanted to try it out to see the result.

Also, this way I learned the value of a proper pre-run warm up like never before.

My training progress

This was, sort of a ‘test week’ for myself to see where I am with my speed. Can’t complain about the result. After all, I’m in the middle of the marathon training program and am still able to run fast.

From this moment on I really need to increase my overall volume and focus on longer ‘marathon pace’ intervals. So far I spent a lot of time running 5-6K sessions and shorter intervals to prepare for this run.

My long run is slowly getting there – this week I did a half marathon at an easy pace. However, with muscles still in recovery mode after the race it went tougher than I expected. Lots of work still to come.

dynamic pre run warmup pin