What Makes a Good Race Warm up?

The most important thing I've learned from training with a competitive track & field club is how to warm up properly. A good warm up helps with both injury prevention and performance. When I started running for fun, I would just go straight from sitting in class to running on the road, telling myself that I would just start easy and that would be my warm up. However, after training more seriously, I realized that a good warm up can really help making the running experience more pleasant and races a lot faster.

Key Elements of a Warm up

With competitive track running the warm up routine has been perfected and standardized through scientific studies that tested the efficiency of each drill, dynamic stretch, jogging lap, etc.  At track & field competitions all runners have very similar pre-race routines, whether about to run 10k or a 100m sprint. Here are the key elements of their warm up:

1. Fast walking and slow jogging (the longer the race, the longer this section)
2. Slow sport-specific dynamic stretches
4. Fast and explosive technique drills
5. Accelerations and strides

As you can see, static stretching is no longer part of a typical pre-race warm up.  This is because it goes against the purpose of a warm up to increase blood flow in the future working muscles (see my blog post on the topic: http://www.ready2run.ca/2014/10/the-best-way-to-stretch-for-runners.html ).

The Role of Drills in a Warm Up

Track runners integrate technique drills to not only wake up all the muscles and lubricate the joints but also fire up the neuromuscular system to prepare the body to run efficiently.

When adding drills to your warm-up routine, choose drills that will:
  1. Make you move all the joints you will use running (do not forget your upper body)
  2. Fire up your core
  3. Loosen up any muscles that feel tight
  4. Awaken your sense of balance and body awareness
Listen to your body and start slower, at a walking pace without bouncing or jumping, if you are getting out of breath or your muscles are starting to feel sore,you are going too fast.  If a drill requires too much effort or focus to do, then practice it on its own as part of your strength training routine rather than as part of your warm-up until it becomes easy.

Here is a video showing examples of running drills demonstrated by pro marathon runners Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis:

And a video of Kipchoge's warmup routine before his sub-2:00 attempt

 What is your warm up routine like? Feel free to share it with us for inspiration or to get feedback.