Slow and Easy – Warming Up To It

It took me some time to figure out a good warm up routine, for running workouts and especially for races.

The only reason I make a distinction between the two is because for running workouts even after warming up you have the luxury to slowly pick up the pace, while in races most times you have to bring it fast when the gun goes off.

Warming up before a run is essential to adjust our bodies to the effort that is about to come, elevate our body temperature, increase blood flow, loosen up our muscles, and avoid injury.

Warming Up

I went running with a friend not long ago, and was surprised to see him off at a not so slow pace the minute we stepped out of the parking lot.

As much as I wish I could pull that off and save myself 15 minutes before every run, as well as the bore of walking and running slowly, I’ve learned better, the hard way.  Pull a muscle once, strain your calf another time, lesson learned.

I actually had trouble finding good information online about warming up.  Sure, there were articles with the whys, and general advice on how to do it, but no specifics, no examples I could work from.

After some trial and error, I’ve found what works for me.

Warm-up routine for regular runs:

* 5 minutes of walking, starting at a pace of 9:15 Min/KM (14:50 Min/Mile) and going up on increments up to 8:00 Min/KM (12:50 Min/Mile).

* 10 minutes of easy jogging, starting at a pace of 6:20 Min/KM (10:10 Min/Mile) and going up to 5:27 Min/KM (8:47 Min/Mile), in 2-3 minute increments.

I am always amazed at how hard running at that pace feels when my body and muscles are still cold, it reinforces that I should never skip warming up gradually.



It’s so important to find that perfect balance between enough warming up to be ready to go by start time, but not so much that we are wasting the energy that we’ll need during the race.

For shorter races – 5K/10K:

I start my warm up so I’ll be done 5 minutes before the race’s gun time, just enough time left to get in place and eat a gel.
The main goal when warming up for short races is to get to a place where we’ll be warm enough to comfortably run a pace that will be relatively fast for us, as soon as the race starts.

Even though it may feel like we are tiring our muscles running a few KMs/Miles before the race even starts, warming up effectively will do exactly the opposite, help us run at our fullest potential without getting that heavy feeling on our legs, cramping, or getting injured.

A good way to get there is to walk at a comfortable pace for 5 minutes, and then jog for 15 to 20 minutes.  The first 10-15 minutes of the jog should be slow, even very slow, with the last 5 minutes getting gradually faster until almost race pace.

For longer races – Above 10K and up to a Half Marathon:

I start my warm up a bit earlier, to be done about 10 minutes before the race stars, so I can visit the restroom one last time, then get in place and eat a gel.
My warm up routine is to walk comfortably for 5 minutes and jog for another 10 minutes at an easy pace.  By then our muscles should be warm and loose.
Then when the race starts I do the first KM at a pace that is between my warm up pace and actual race pace.

For a Marathon:

A light warm up will suffice to get some blood flowing, and saving most of our energy for the actual race.  Walk for 5 minutes and jog lightly for another 5 minutes.  When the race start, take the first couple of KMs (about 1.5 miles) to gradually increase your pace until you reach your goal race pace.

Or, you can forget everything I just wrote and do what she does:



After running:

I do not stretch before running, I think stretching is better and safer when our muscles are already warm.
Post run I stretch almost immediately, calves, hamstrings and quads. Always.
And I use the Grid 2.0 roller usually in the evening (I run in the morning), on my hips, quads, and calves.


How and for how long do you warm up?

Do you consider your warm out run as part of your run and total distance?




21 thoughts on “Slow and Easy – Warming Up To It”

  1. Ah yes… after reading your post I realised that my calves might not be hurting from the compression socks but from lacking a proper warm up. My ‘home loop’ starts with a 500m rather steep climb 😉 I need to work on that. I always forget to warm up first.

  2. I get my runs in after I’ve dropped the kids at school so by then there’s already been some running around, herding cats. 😉
    I foam roll both IT bands and hamstrings, then walk out to our gate -about .2 miles. Then I start to run, usually right at planned pace although it takes a couple miles to feel great. I stretch well right after I finish and roll again. Probably not am optimal plan but it seems to work well for me.

    1. I can see how some morning errands would warm up your muscles at least a bit. I run pretty much straight from bed, early in the morning. Not that I’d skip my warm up if I were to run later, but I’m sure my muscles would feel different.

  3. I just recently started doing some dynamic stretches before running and I really like the results! Makes the first mile feel that much better. And that video is awesome… Her happiness is contagious!

      1. I do them instead of a warm up run if I’m doing a short run, and then if it’s a long slow run, I do the dynamic stretches and then just run the first mile at a bit of a slower pace.

  4. I couldn’t ever be bothered to warm up. I wanted to get straight out there. I now have my first “proper” injury that had niggled me for almost 4 months. I will NEVER be making that mistake again!!
    I enjoyed reading these tips and see that dynamic warm up is the way forward 😉

  5. I ususally dedicated the first 10-15 mins of my run to warming up. Typically around 13:30ish. Dynamic stretches after to stretch out anything that feels tight or stiff. It’s so important to warm up. I think it makes a huge difference in the rest of the run too.

    1. I agree it makes a huge difference, although I haven’t started a run without warming up in a very long time, I know it doesn’t do me any good, so I stick to my warm up routine.

  6. Thanks for taking us through your usual warm-up routine. I do something similar. I’ve also never understood people that can just start running. Makes me feel like an old lady or something for needing the warm-up walk and slow jog. Whatever. Doesn’t matter as long as I do what’s right for my body.

    That video is hysterical! It wouldn’t be quite as funny if she wasn’t smiling and didn’t have the bow in her hair. That definitely takes it over the edge! Though I saw an interview with her and she said that she loves competing so much that when she’s about to race, she just gets really happy. Hence the smile.

    1. Old lady feeling here too.. especially when everyone is flying past me. I saw this quote the other day about not comparing yourself to people who are in the middle of their journey when you are just starting yours (something like that anyway), that would literally apply here too.
      Yes, that video is cute, I’d usually be rolling my eyes to something like this, but her enthusiasm and happiness is contagious.

  7. My typical warm up is first a swim followed by a bike ride before getting to the run 😉 If I am only running, I do some dynamic exercises (leg swings, toy soldier, caterpillar, etc) followed by an easy jog. Nothing too taxing 🙂

  8. I don’t warm up before a normal run except for 5 minutes of walking around (bad me!). I do a 10 minute walk with maybe 2-3 minutes of a very light jog before a half/full and do 1-2 miles before a short race at easy run pace. It’s what works for me 🙂 if I do too much, my running suffers so I seem to be the opposite of you, I feel just fine going out the door cold!

    1. Oh, you are so lucky! 🙂
      My legs are stiff and heavy when I start running.. I feel a hard effort and then look at my Garmin and I can’t believe how slow I’m running. Same thing every time.

  9. Good post because warming up is key! I never used to warm up (even before a race) and always felt the negative repercussions from it, but have now found a great warm up routine and feel so much better!

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