Posted by: Joe English | August 12, 2009

Questions — How important is warming up before a run?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

A reader named Rohit writes in with an super-duper excellent question that I am so glad was asked. Here’s the question:

“During a lot of my long runs, my fellow runners rarely warm up. Most of the time the attitude is, we will get warmed up while running and that warm up is only required on race day. I understand that warming up is important while doing intense training runs, like intervals or hills. But if I’m doing a long run, or an easy run, how important is warming up?”

First, let’s just get this out there. Warming up is absolutely essential and should be a part of every workout. And your friends know this, don’t they? As you say, they feel that warming up is “required on race day”. If something is required on race day, why wouldn’t it be required during a regular workout? Just the opposite is true. Warming up is a critical part of the start-up process of the body, both mentally and physically. We’re just like cars. Ask any mechanic and they’ll tell you that you should let your car warm-up for 30 seconds before driving off. This allows the oil to get out of the oil pan and the engine to warm-up. Unfortunately, we never do this warm-up either, do we? Maybe on a really cold morning or … before a big race?

Warming up has two components — mental and physical ones. On the physical side, the warm-up raises your heart rate and breathing. It starts increasing the blood flow to the muscles. It allows the muscles themselves to warm and stretch. It starts hormonal changes that will allow you to produce energy in your muscles. On the mental side, the warm-up is the time in which you set your focus on the important parts of the workout — its the time when you think through the workout and get set to do what you need to do.

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