Coach Mike Mead

Warm-Up with a Pre-Race Routine - October 2006

With cooler temperatures approaching, the need for an adequate warm-up before racing is essential. I have been to countless foot races over the years and observed how many so-called runners do not have a proper warm-up routine to get them ready for their competition. Perhaps the worst example I’ve witnessed has been seeing some folks puffing on cigarettes before a race! Not an effective warm-up by any means, but not any worse perhaps than many folks I see who just stand around until the gun is shot to start the race.

A proper warm-up should take about 45 minutes, depending on weather and racing distance. When the weather is cool a longer warm-up is necessary. Short distance races (5K and less) will require more warm-up than a 10K and up because of the quicker pace in the shorter events. Hot weather will not require as long a warm-up than on cooler days.

Begin your warm-up with 15 minutes of running that includes 10 minutes of easy running, followed with five minutes in which you steadily increase your tempo to near race pace the last minute. After your 15-minute run use the bathroom (allow ample time for the potty lines!) and drink some water. Next, stretch for about 10 minutes working on any tight spots, but don’t overstretch!

By this time, you should have about 10 minutes before the scheduled race start. Before you reach this point, you should have already pinned your race number to your racing top and have on the shoes you plan to race in. I recommend switching into your race shoes before you stretch, but after you’re initial warm-up. On cool or cold days, it’s best to keep an outer layer of clothing on until the very last moment before the start.

If you’ve warmed up properly, you should be warm and toasty on cool days. I always liked working up a good sweat that meant I was ready for the start. With five minutes before the scheduled start, get in four pick-ups of about 80m each. You want to do these faster than race pace to get your heart rate up. Think of yourself as a racecar and you’re revving up your engine. Racecar drivers don’t start a race with a cold engine and neither should you.

Once you have completed the race, be sure to get in a cool down. The cool down is just as important as the warm-up in that it’ll help you recover quicker for your next workout following the race. Get in a minimum of 15 minutes on your cool down. By the time you have completed the cool down, you should feel as though your legs have regained most of their turnover. Just be certain that you do not just shuffle through your cool down. Yeah you are tired, but you will only pick up bad running habits and form.

So the next time you race, have a warm-up routine and follow it. You will be prepared to handle the start and you’ll be able to race for effectively. Good luck!