Have you ever skipped warming up before your training? You are not the only one. Sometimes you just don’t have enough time, or you simply can’t be bothered.
You’ve probably heard many times how important it is to warm up before every training or race.
In this article, you will learn why you need to warm up before running.
Why you need to warm-up before running?
Warm-up before running is important because it prepares you for the exertion you will experience during a competition or the main part of your training. The purpose of warming up is to raise body temperature, boost blood flow and heart rate so that body is prepared for the upcoming activities.
In the following text, I will explain in more detail all 7 reasons why it is important to warm up before the activity.
Benefits of warming up before running
1. Raises the temperature of your muscles
Think of the meat you’ve just taken out of the freezer. It is cold and stiff. First you have to heat it, so it becomes tender and flexible. The same is true for our muscles. To get them ready for a strenuous activity you have to warm up properly.
Research shows that proper warming up results in an increase of body temperature by 2-3% which lasts for 45 minutes. The increase in body temperature leads to useful changes in our muscles and tendons:
- Significantly boosts the elasticity of muscles and as a result allows an exercise of higher intensity.
- Muscles and tendons become more flexible which makes stretching easier and more effective.
- Boost in enzymes and metabolic activities helps the effectiveness of muscle contractions.
2. Boosts blood flow and oxygen delivery to your muscles
During warming up your muscles use more oxygen. To make sure they receive enough oxygen muscles produce things that help expand blood vessels, simply put they cause vasodilatation.
The process of vasodilatation enables erythrocytes (red blood cells) to deliver more oxygen to active muscles, which results in increased oxygen-enriched blood flow. It also prevents the quick accumulation of lactic acid and other side products of metabolic processes which cause muscle inflammation whenever you start running without warming up first.
By increasing blood flow, you also increase your muscle temperature. At higher temperatures hemoglobin in the erythrocytes releases oxygen more quickly (Bohr effect).
As a result, you will be able to handle more exertion because blood and oxygen circulation is easier and your muscles have access to higher amounts of oxygen. This means that your muscles will use aerobic metabolism to produce energy at a higher rate.
3. Increases running performance, efficiency, and effectiveness
Have you ever been in a situation where the first interval of your run was harder than the fourth? It happened because you haven’t warmed up enough before the first interval, but by the fourth one your body was properly warmed up.
Warming up before strenuous activities enhance performance because your muscles will receive higher amounts of oxygen and be ready for the upcoming exertion.
Warming up also prepares your body for cooling down which then results in sweating. Proper warming up protects your body from overheating and reaching dangerous body temperatures.
Research shows that with a proper warming up of the lower half of your body you can activate 5.9-8.5% more muscle fibers in the quadriceps. The more muscle fibers you activate the better your performance will be.
4. Reduces the risk of injury
Proper warming up before any activity significantly reduces the risk of injury. Muscles after warming up are ready to contract and have a lower likelihood of cramping compared to muscles with no warming up. Warming up before strenuous activities increase muscle length which allows the muscle to endure more exertion without injuries.
Research shows that proper warming up significantly reduces the risk of injury in the lower parts of the body. It has been shown that warming up is especially effective in preventing injuries of the anterior cruciform ligament (ACL), which are very common in runners, especially women.
5. Increases alertness and focus
Proper warming up prepares your body not just physically but mentally. The more focused you are the better your performance will be. Warming up gives you the time to mentally prepare for your training or a race by removing all distractions, freeing your mind of negative thoughts, and focusing you on what you have to do.
Proper warming up will also prepare you for the discomfort which follows particularly difficult parts of your training or race. If the mind is ready for difficulties your body will be able to handle more pain and you will be motivated when a crisis emerges.
Develop your own warming up routine to use before training, which you will also use before races. By doing this you will avoid unnecessary stress which always emerges before the race, and instead you will focus on patterns of warming up you are already familiar with.
6. Increases mobility of joints
In addition to muscle warm-up also prepares joints for the upcoming stress. It also increases the range of motion that allows your joints (such as shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles) to reach their maximum. As a result, your run will be harmonious, with your movements all in sync. Without proper warm-up, your movements will be stiff and painful.
7. Improves neuromuscular effectiveness
By warming up and increasing your body temperature you also quicken all processes in your body, including nerve impulses that send signals to muscle fibers. The communication between nerves and muscle fibers is more effective which makes your muscles ready for intensive training or race.
FAQ – frequently asked questions
How to warm up properly before running?
It is important to adapt your warming up according to the activity and to emphasize warming up muscle groups which you will use the most.
Complete warm up routine before running is divided into two parts, the general and the specific.
The general part includes:
- Easy jog or a walk – aerobic activities of low intensity
- Mobility exercises and dynamic stretches
The specific part includes:
- Running drills
It is important to note that not all elements will always be included in the warm-up before running.
The warm-up varies depending on the type of training or race. Adjust it to your fitness level and weather conditions. It is also important to consider how much time you have available.
Gradually increase the intensity of your warm-up until you reach a level that is almost at the level of activity. Warm-up has to be intensive enough to raise body temperature and speed up your breathing, but it cannot be at the level where it exhausts you too much.
TipYour running pace does not matter; conserve your energy for the main part of your training or race.
Read more: Warm-up Before Running [Ultimate Guide]
Do you have to warm up before every run?
You have to warm up before every run, regardless if it is an easy run or an important race. You will not only reduce the risk of injury, but you will also be better prepared for your activity and will improve your performance.
Hi, I’m Matea! I’m Olympic Marathon Runner, founder, and writer behind OLYRUN.com. On this site, I provide help in the form of my knowledge and experience to all who love running and active living. Read more…