How to do a warm up before running

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
Ask Louise

12 March 2021

How should I warm up before a run?

A good running warm up should involve 2-3 minutes of stretching, making sure to target all areas of the body from the shoulders right down to the ankles. Squats, lunges, high knee marches and arm circles are some good examples of running stretches. This should be followed by 2-3 minutes of activities that gradually build up the heart rate, such as fast-paced walking, star jumps, skipping and eventually jogging.

How to do a running warm up

There are three key aspects to a running warm up: stretching, increasing the heart rate and following the principles of 'RAISE'. Let's find out a little more about each of these.

1. Stretch

Stretching is the first step in a running warm up. It reduces lactic acid build up in the muscles and, therefore, reduces the chance of muscle stiffness and cramps during and after exercise.

Here are some easy stretches to try for yourself:

  • Squats – Stand with the legs shoulder-width apart and then slowly lower your bottom towards the ground. Keep your chest up and your back straight. Imagine you are sitting on an invisible stool! Hold for a few seconds and then release.
  • Walking lunges – Place the hands on the hips and stand with the feet hip-width apart. Step forwards with your right foot, keeping the left knee bent and facing downwards. Release, bringing your left foot to meet the right one, and then switch to the other side. Keep switching sides until you have moved a distance of approximately 5 metres.
  • High knee march – Take a step forwards, bringing your right knee up to your chest. Swing your left arm up at the same time. Continue into a march, moving opposite arms and legs as you go. 
  • Arm circles – Put your arms out in a 'T-shape' and gradually begin to draw small circles with them. Increase the size of the circles, taking care to move quite slowly, and then reduce the size of the circle again.

2. Raise the heart beat

A running warm up should gradually increase in intensity to guide runners seamlessly into their session. It's also a good idea to change the activity at regular intervals to make sure that all areas of the body get sufficiently warmed up!

  • Quick walk – This one needs little explanation! Just aim to get your heart rate up by focusing on a fast-paced walk.
  • Star jumps – Begin by standing up straight – think of the body like a pencil! Next, jump both the legs and the arms out to the side all at the same time so that they take up a star shape. Move back to the first position. Repeat this back and forth for 30 seconds.
  • Skipping – You can use a skipping rope here or, if you don't have one, just focus on skipping around your garden or park in big leaps for a period of 30 seconds or so.
  • Gentle jog – Finally, move onto a gentle jog before you begin the run.

3. Remember 'RAMP'

When doing a running warm up, don't forget about the importance of 'RAMP':

  • RAISE - the heart rate, temperature, blood flow and muscle elasticity.
  • ACTIVATE - the muscles to prepare them for the main session.
  • MOBILISE - the joints and tendons using movement patterns to be used in the main session.
  • POTENTIATE - increase the stress and intensity of your movements to prepare the body for the main session.

Balance Mineral Drink

Prepare your body for a run by taking a sachet of Balance Mineral Drink in a little water. It contains vital nutrients like magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium and vitamin D to support the muscles and aid energy levels.

"Gives the pre-run boost needed for a great run"

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How long should you warm up before jogging?

A good running warm up should last approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on how long you are exercising for. If you are heading out for a run of around 5k (about 3.1 miles), for example, aim for a warm up of 10 minutes. For a run that is over 5k, it is a good idea to warm up for longer than this, around 15 minutes.

What happens if you don't warm up before running?

Warm-ups, such as stretching and jogging, are crucial in helping to loosen up the muscles and joints prior to exercise. They also increase body temperature, boost blood flow to muscles and establish the flow of energy around muscles. All of this is thought to go some way towards reducing the risk of injury and delayed onset muscle soreness.

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