Before we get into how to warm up before a run, let’s talk about why it is important. Warming up does three things:
• increases heart rate
• increases breathing rate
• increases blood flow to the muscles.
If you go from sedentary to running in a matter of seconds, your heart rate won’t be at a level that can pump blood fast enough to keep up with your activity. Warming up gradually increases your heart rate so it is ready for running when you are.
The same goes for your breathing. At rest, your breathing rate is much slower and shallower than it is when you are running. A round of dynamic stretching exercises get you breathing faster and deeper so you get the proper amount of oxygen to your large muscle groups to sustain your run.
Of course if you increase your heart rate, you will move more blood through your body over a given period of time. Being the blood is the transport device to take the oxygen to the cells (and carbon dioxide from them), it takes rapid blood flow to keep up with the body’s metabolism when running.
As you can see, the heart, blood and lungs all work together in unison helping to fuel your body. A warm-up routine brings these bio-systems up to the proper operating level required when running.
How to Warm Up
One fact overlooked by many new runners is that their warm-up routine has to be matched to the type of running they will be doing on a particular day, so a warm-up routine is not a one-size-fits-all. For everyday runs for exercise, start out with a one to two block walk. When you start running, start slow and gradually, over the course of a half-mile or so, work up to your normal running speed.
If your run will be on a treadmill, your warm-up routine will be slightly different. Start with 10 minutes on a low to no impact cardio machine. Periodically add in a minute or two segments of increased resistance. Once finished with your warm-up, move immediately to the treadmill and increase the belt speed until you reach your normal running speed. If you plan on doing interval or another type of increased resistance running, run at your normal pace for five to 10 minutes first before increasing your effort.
If you plan on participating in a race that day, get to the race venue early so that you have time to do a 30-minute warm-up routine consisting of easy jogging, light stretches and several 100-meter strides ending each stride at your race pace.
Many runners, especially new runners, overlook the importance of warming up before a run. By not warming up, not only do they increase the risk of an injury, but they inhibit their ability to reach their peak performance.