Achieve Peak Performance with a Proper Warmup

An appropriate warm up primes your body and mind for upcoming training or competition.

Priming is an important component to training, especially harder effort runs.  Priming prepares the physiological and psychological systems for use or action.  A short 10-15 minute warmup routine primes the body for the demands of harder effort training, such as interval, lactate threshold, or VO2 max training or competition.

PC: Cheltenham Challenge

Many athletes neglect this aspect of training or associate a warmup with track workouts.  The benefits of Investing a small amount of training time to warming up outweigh the any detractors.

Why warmup?

The benefits of a warmup routine are plentiful, leaving me to wonder why runners neglect this important aspect of training.  A warm up is an integral part of training session or competition, not a separate entity.

  • Address specific physiological, mechanical, and psychological requirements for running.
  • Lessen the potential for injury.
  • Improve running form with repetitive movement while building muscle memory.
  • Gradually increase heart rate, blood flow, muscle temperature, and breathing rate with general to specific-running movement with gradual increases in intensity.
  • Provide dynamic movement and stretch to larger muscles in the leg, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • 10-20 minutes maximum duration, shorter with higher temperatures.

It is important to remember that the warmup should not fatigue the athlete.  Instead, the warmup will prepare the athlete for harder effort training or competition through progressive increases in intensity and dynamic movement.

Progression of the Warmup


Approximately 5-10 minutes of easy paced jogging, gently raising respiratory rate, HR, and muscle temperature.  Athletes should focus on relaxed running form.


Movements similar to running without muscle fatigue or depleting energy stores while increasing range of motion.  Progressive movement patterns with controlled motion build muscle memory and support fundamental running skills.

Examples:  dynamic lateral and frontal leg swings, Death March, heel and toe walks, knee hugs, skipping, lateral and frontal lunges.


Short, high intensity, running with phased increases in intensity to near training or competition levels, building speed and power capabilities.

Examples:  4-6 accelerations of 10-50 m distance

Upon completion of the warmup, the core training should within 5-10 minutes to maintain physiological benefits of the warm up.

The importance of a proper warmup applies to other endurance sports, such as cycling, swimming, and multi-sport events.  Athletes of all ability ranges benefit by incorporating warmup routine into their training regimen.

COMING UP NEXT: Coach Harboe’s Warmup Routine.

Learn more about this topic by reading Ian Jeffrey’s research titled RAMP Warm-Ups: More Than Simply Short-Term Preparation.

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