The Ideal Pre-Race Warm-Up

The Perfect Warm-Up

The perfect warm-up does all three things it's supposed to do to prepare the body for hard running: warm the muscles, kickstart the metabolic system, and prime the neuromuscular system. To do this, the warm-up must include easy jogging, mobility exercises and plyometrics.

Easy Jogging

It doesn't take a lot of jogging to warm the muscles and prime the metabolic system. Ten minutes will do the trick. Start about 20 minutes before your race time or before you need to enter your start corral.

Mobility Exercises

When you're done jogging, transition straight into a set of mobility exercises. Begin with gentler movements and progress to more intense ones. Here are some suggested exercises:

Walking Lunge — Take 20 large steps forward (10 per leg), lowering your leading thigh until it's parallel to the ground with each step.

Trunk Twist — Extend your arms straight outward to the sides and gently rotate your torso to the right and then the left, keeping your arms in line with your shoulders. Twist 10 times in each direction.

Forward Leg Swing — Stand on your left foot and perform large, moderate-pace kicking movements with your right leg. Swing from the hips, keeping your leg straight. Complete 10 kicks and then do the same with the left leg.

Side Leg Swing — Stand facing a wall or fence, lean forward slightly, and brace the fingers of both hands against it. Stand on your left foot and swing your right leg from side to side between your body and the wall/fence. Swing from the hips, keeping your leg straight. Complete 10 swings and then do the same with the left leg.

Ankle Bounce — After completing your leg swings, keep your fingers on the wall/fence and lean into it. Contract your calf muscles and lift your heels off the ground, then drop your heels back to the ground. Repeat this action 10 times in a bouncing rhythm.

High Knees — Run in place, lifting your knee as high as you can with each step. Complete 10 steps per leg.

Butt Kicks — Run in place with your thighs locked in a neutral position and try to kick yourself in the rear end with the heel of your foot on each step. Complete 10 steps per leg.

Plyometrics

The final step in the ideal warm-up is a set of short, fast strides with a plyometric element. Six efforts at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum speed and lasting 10 to 15 seconds each will do the trick. There's no need for a weight vest. You can get the same effect by doing the odd-numbered strides uphill and the even-numbered ones downhill. If you don't have access to a hill, just replace running with forward bounding on the even-numbered strides.

Now you're ready to race.

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About the Author

Matt Fitzgerald

Matt Fitzgerald is a certified sports nutritionist, endurance coach, and author. His many books include Racing Weight and The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. Matt's writing also appears regularly on competitor.com, in Women's Running, and elsewhere. He has served as a consultant to several sports nutrition companies, as a peer reviewer for scientific journals, and as a nutrition advisor to professional runners and triathletes. Matt also provides nutrition counseling services to athletes of all experience and ability levels through racingweight.com. A lifelong athlete himself, he speaks frequently at events throughout the United States and internationally. Learn more at mattfitzgerald.org.
Matt Fitzgerald is a certified sports nutritionist, endurance coach, and author. His many books include Racing Weight and The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. Matt's writing also appears regularly on competitor.com, in Women's Running, and elsewhere. He has served as a consultant to several sports nutrition companies, as a peer reviewer for scientific journals, and as a nutrition advisor to professional runners and triathletes. Matt also provides nutrition counseling services to athletes of all experience and ability levels through racingweight.com. A lifelong athlete himself, he speaks frequently at events throughout the United States and internationally. Learn more at mattfitzgerald.org.

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