Warming up is another one of those topics in sport that is often debated.  The fact that warm-up is necessary is rarely contested, but the amount and type of warm-up needed for a runner to perform his or her best is often debated.  Many have attempted to break warming up into a science determined by specific components.  We firmly believe this is impossible.  Gugly believes each person should warm-up differently depending on a variety of inputs.  However, many runners are ill-informed and some get a little lazy when it comes to warming-up.  "Why do a mini-workout right before my big race?"--is what some think.  It is, however, very important.  As with everything, preparation is at least half the battle.  Below we list some of the considerations and concepts that a runner should think about when judging how to warm-up.

When involved in any athletic endeavor, a necessary component of that endeavor, is the process of warming up. Warming up can have many meanings.  The most universal meaning is preparation of the body to perform at an optimal level in the athletic arena.

Goals. The process of warming up has evolved over the years.  Many in the field of athletics have progressed from a basic 4 laps jogging, sitting and stretching, to a much more active and dynamic warm up.  The goals of a warm-up are this;

  • To raise the core temperature of your muscles
  • To stretch out the muscles
  • To increase blood flow throughout the body and especially to the muscle groups needed for the race
  • To 'prime' the neuromuscular system and prepare the joints and muscles for the given activity.
  • To get used to the environmental conditions, like terrain, air temp, etc.

Vary it. This is an extremely important concept, but one that is often overlooked.  The warm up should vary daily, because the same workout is not being done every day.  Each athlete may also be showing up to the workout with differing states of body and mind.  Many may be rested, some may have partied all night long, others may have just eaten a huge meal, etc.  As a result, each athlete should try to assess the states their mind and body are in and try to adapt their warm-up appropriately (if possible).  In general, however, warm ups should proceed from general to specific.  As the core temperature rises, the level of demand of the exercise should rise.  The coach and the athlete must look at the given day’s workout and incorporate movements which will mirror those demands into the warm-up.

Keep it going. Recent studies have shown better results are derived from continuous warm up. In this type of warm up, there is constant movement, for 20-25 minutes.  At the end of the warm up the athlete’s body is fully prepared to perform at the highest level.  Continuous warm ups also aid an athlete in injury prevention.  Athletes that keep their warm up going tend to avoid the age old muscle pulls associated with many sports because the muscles weren’t warm enough at the start of the competition.  A final benefit to the continuous warm up is that it requires less space and less time than an old fashioned warm up.  No longer do you jog and stretch and then do form drills.  Your form drills are already incorporated into the warm up.

Stretching. Research from several sources show that static stretching is not necessary to enhance athletic performance.  Many actually suggest that the opposite is true.  When we sit and static stretch, we are allowing the muscle to cool down, thereby wasting much of the previous warm up effort.  As a result, Gugly believes that when given the choice between using your time to stretch or warm-up before a race, do the warm up.  If, however, you have experienced better results by stretching, please feel free to do so.

Event.  Much of what a runner does in warm-up will also depend on what event(s) he or she is going to run.  If the athlete will be sprinting, some very short bursts of speed may be needed in warm up.  Distance runners may not need the same type of warm-up.

Experience.  If a runner does not have a coach assisting, a runner's own personal experiences with warming up are probably some of the best guides to determining the proper warm-up.  Using workouts and past races as guides, each runner should be able to objectively put weights on the factors above without letting laziness factor into the equation.  Using those experiences, he or she should be able to customize their own warm-up to maximize success.  One caveat, however, is that runners should always pay attention to how they warm-up and the results each produces.  They should attempt to experiment with different warm-ups for less important events and with workouts, and gauge the results for use in more important events.  Continually try to improve on the formula--don't get lazy!

As a result, Gugly's stance on the issue is that everyone is different mentally and physically, therefore everyone needs to warm-up in a different manner.  If a coach is not personally training the athlete, it is up to the runner to judge how much warm-up is needed.  A runner must, however, be aware of the factors that theoretically should affect the warm-up and race correlation.  And, by combining what they know with what they have experienced, they can create an optimal warm-up for them.

Sample warm up.  A typical warm up might proceed in the following manner:

  1. 4 x 50 m jog ( turn around every 50)
  2. 1 x 50 m skip w/ crossing arms
  3. 1 x 50 m skip w/ windmill arms
  4. 2 x 50 m easy jog
  5. 10 x leg swings side to side and front to back
  6. 10 x trunk rotation each direction
  7. 1 x 50 m side skip w/ crossing arms
  8. 20 x ankle bounces
  9. 1 x 50 m heel walks
  10. 1 x 50 m backward run
  11. 6 x lunges into a skip
  12. 5 x walk ups and walk downs
  13. 10 x fire hydrants each direction
  14. 10 x front eagle and scorpion
  15. 2 x 50 m acceleration walk back recovery

This is a very basic warm up that can be used in all sports.  This works to enhance flexibility, while raising the core temperature.  Every joint used is warmed up.  Specific technical exercises can be added and deleted as needed.  The typical jog and stretch modality should then be employed at the end of a workout as a cool down.