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Wimbledon Clinics

Warming Up Before Running

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Running is one of the most effective ways to keep fit. It’s a form of exercise that’s as natural as walking with added mental and physical benefits that improve well-being.  To maximise performance and reduce injury, you need to ensure you warm up adequately.

Benefits of Warming Up Before Running

Warming up for running gives your muscles, bones and joints a chance to loosen up, and gradually escalates your heart rate so you can get into the rhythm needed to sustain your ideal running pace. Mentally, it enables you to focus and prepare for your exercise session.

A dynamic warm-up increases muscle temperature and blood flow which decreases stiffness and risk of injury. Solid exercises improve muscle elasticity and endurance, lessening chances of strains and pulls.

When you warm up, your body increases its production of hormones responsible for regulating energy production. Typically, you’ll intensify the release carbohydrates and fatty acids needed to sustain your energy levels.

 Types of Stretches

Focus on stretching major muscles groups used to run – quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs, back, hip flexors and calf muscles. Key stretches realign muscle fibers and re-oxygenate the blood so it can pump nutrients to muscles.

Standing calf and hamstring stretches, hip flexors and spinal rotations slowly wake-up muscles and provide your limbs with a better range of motion. When warming up for running, it’s important to include a combination of dynamic and static stretching – we’ll elaborate more on this later.

Warm Up Intensity

Ideally, warming up has four phases. The first phase should involve low-intensity stretches and cardiovascular exercises to increase heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. Phase two involves dynamic movements aimed at loosening joints and muscles such as squats, leg kicks and arm rotations.

Phase three should focus on agility, deceleration, speed drills and acceleration to prepare your body for fast movement. Warming up for running should be a gradual progression that builds from low- to high- intensity.

Lastly, the fourth phase should be tailored around the specific physical actions you need to master a run at your optimum speed. This might include dynamic high kicks, jump squats and jump lunges.

Warming Up Muscles

An efficient warm-up distributes lubricating fluid throughout your joints to reduce friction while you run. Warm-ups prepare your body for what’s to come but most importantly, prevent injury during exercise.

Warm muscles prevent serious injuries like hamstring sprains and decrease overall strain on your body, particularly if you’re a regular runner. The point of warming up for running is to prepare safely and steadily for rigorous exercise.

How Long Should You Warm Up For?

The shorter your run, the longer your warm-up. This seems contradictory, but the intensity and speed of your run are likely to be higher the shorter the distance. This means you need to be very warm. Running for longer requires greater endurance and careful pacing which tends to decrease speed allowing your muscles to gradually warm up as you run.

A 5km run at race pace needs about a 45 minute warm up and a 10km run between 20-30 minutes. The bare minimum for any warm up is at least 10 minutes, but if you’re looking to push a hard workout, you need between 20-30 minutes to ensure your body is at its prime.

Dynamic Warm-Ups

Dynamic stretching incorporates movement and takes your joints through their full range of motion. It prepares the body without robbing it of vital tissues needed for your elastic recoil – the tissue’s ability to store and return energy generated by muscles.

These kinds of warm-ups simultaneously focus on different muscles groups and simulate the types of movement you’d do when running. Walking lunges, side-to-side lunges, slow motion running, stride outs and spine rotations are good examples of dynamic stretches to include in your warm up.

Passive Warm-Ups

If your muscles are tight, you shouldn’t force any stretch or cause added strain by bouncing down on or stretching them. Tight muscles don’t necessarily mean you can’t exercise but rather, that you should take extra care.

With massage, hot showers, lotions and heating pads you can increase muscle temperature externally but shouldn’t use these methods to replace warming up for running.  Passive warm-ups are suitable before stretching and can help ease tight muscles into exercise.

Warming Up Dos and Don’ts


Running requires full-body motion and flexibility. Make sure you don’t limit the range during each stretch.

A warm up should be pleasant, not painful. It’s also not a personal fitness challenge – leave that for the actual run!

Static stretching is for cooling down after a run. Exercising cold muscles can lead to pulled muscles.


Gradually pace your dynamic stretching to mobilise muscles within their range of motion. Ease into each stretch, don’t bounce or force it.

Focus on the muscles you plan to use during your run. Make sure to include upper body exercises and lower body moves.

Break a light sweat.  When your blood is flowing, it raises your body’s temperature. You might experience the first breaks of sweat or colour in your cheeks. Maintain intensity but don’t overexert yourself.

If you feel tightness in the muscle, or recurring symptoms of an existing injury stop exercising and seek advice from an injury clinic.

 The Importance of Injury Prevention

Asymmetry, motor control/balance, body mass index and previous injury are the four main components of person’s injury risk profile. Injury is indicative of strain and in most cases is caused by not warming up.

Minor injuries heal over time, but serious injuries can recur, require surgery and can permanently hinder peak performance. That’s why it’s important to understand what efficient movement is and practice proper warm-up techniques

The cliché prevention is better than cure, applies to warming up.

To learn more, download our free ebook, Sports Injuries Treatment and Recovery Guide.

If you’ve just started running or are suffering from an injury, you can get support and advice from specialists like the ones at Wimbledon’s Running Injury Clinic. Alternatively, contact us today, and we’ll put together a clear strategy for treatment and recovery so that you can be back to your best as soon as possible. Call us on:0208 944 0665 or email us at: [email protected]