Why warming up is important – Ziyaad Solo

A good warm up can make or break a good race, time trial or training session. In this blog post I will share my thoughts on the importance of warming up and my go to warm up routine that you can try for yourself.

The Science behind warming up

The main purpose of warming up is to increase the internal body temperature and prime the nervous system for your race or training session. At rest, the body’s core temperature is relatively cool and the circulatory system’s blood vessels are narrow. An effective warm-up will dilate these vessels, allowing for better blood flow to muscles, superior oxygen delivery, enhanced metabolic efficiency, and central nervous system activation.

What My Warm-Up Looks Like

To get the most out of my pre run warm-up, I break it up into two parts:

  1. An active, low-intensity (Zone 1/2) effort that serves to warm the body and enhance blood flow; followed by
  2. Short, high-intensity efforts that activate the central nervous system and boost oxygen uptake processes

Part one of the warm up helps to slowly get your body into an active state. It prepares the various bodily systems (circulatory, muscular, nervous, integumentary, respiratory, etc.) for the effort that’s to come. This will usually take me anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes and should be done at a very easy pace. Keep an eye on your heart rate and breathing. Your heart rate should stay low and you should be able to hold a conversation easily. If you have a training partner this is a great time to discuss the training session ahead or pacing/race strategy.

Part two of my warm up changes depending on the session but for a race or time trial effort this is where I bring in some short hard efforts. I do 5 or 6 rounds of 100 metre strides increasing in speed and effort until I am moving faster than my target race pace usually around 80-85% of a full out effort. I walk 100 meters between each rep to recover. I also keep an eye on my heart rate and make sure it is lowering to zone 1 or zone 2 before starting the next round. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor just make sure you feel fully recovered and that you are breathing easily.

Some runners like to add some dynamic stretches or form drills into their warm up such as B skips, butt kicks, quick steps, and high-knees. If I feel very stiff I will add these but I find that just doing strides is enough for me.

By the end of your warm up you should feel ready to hit your target race pace or prescribed intervals effectively, comfortably and safely with a reduced risk of injury. It is important to remember that this is the warm up only and you should not feel fatigued when you’re done. Do it at your own pace and only do as much as you are comfortable with.


References: Mcgowan, Courtney & Pyne, David & Thompson, Kevin & Rattray, Ben. (2015). Warm-Up Strategies for Sport and Exercise: Mechanisms and Applications . Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 45. 10.1007/s40279-015-0376-x.