top of page

Running Warm Up | Improve Performance & Reduce Injury

An image showing a woman completing a running warm up.

This running warm up has been designed to ensure that you are both physically and psychologically prepared for any running workout. The warm up process below is based on the methods used by professional coaches and athletes. To create the best possible warm up routine advice and guidance have been drawn from multiple leading publications.

Though an overlooked aspect of the training process, the warm up is arguably the most important part of any workout. ‘A well-designed warm-up can mentally and physically prepare athletes for the demands of sports training and athletic events by increasing blood flow to active muscles, raising core body temperature, enhancing metabolic reactions, and improving the joint range of motion,’ (NSCA’s Guide to Programme Design).

But before we take a look at the running warm up, I’ve answered four frequently asked questions (FAQ). The questions are concerned with the benefits of warming up and the best pre-run warm-up process.

Essential reading: Science of Running

Why do a running warm up?

Let’s start with the most important question first – the why of warming up. The single most compelling reason why you should always do a running warm up is that it reduces injury risk. In The Complete Guide to Sports Training, Shepherd outlines recent research that has identified a reduced risk of injury among athletes that warmed up before training.

The outcome of the research is clear-cut. Those athletes that completed a progressive warm up that included exercises and drills specific to the workout suffered far fewer injuries. ‘Conventional wisdom maintains that preliminary exercise helps the performer prepare either physiologically or psychologically and reduce the likelihood of joint and muscle injury,’ (Exercise Physiology).

A warm up achieves this because it ‘enables the body to reach a ‘steady state’ of energy production gradually, and makes tissue more pliable and ready to exercise,’ (The Complete Guide to Stretching).

Warm-up tip: Make sure that the warm-up incorporates exercises, movements, and drills that replicate specific elements of the workout (The Complete Guide to Sports Training).

Warm ups improve motivation

In addition to decreasing injury susceptibility, warming up before your running workouts can increase motivation levels. Sometimes pulling on those trainers and getting out the door can be a monumental effort. Just the thought of going out for that five miler makes the quads ache.

However, even if we’re not in the mood for a run, what we find is that after a good warm up we’re raring to go. This positive outcome of warming up has not gone unnoticed. It accounts for why coaches have implemented the ‘sport-specific’ warm up as a key component of the training process. After all, warming up is as much about preparing the body for exercise as it is about the mind. ‘The sport-specific warm-up is designed to prepare the body and mind optimally for sport,’ (The Complete Guide to Sports Training).

Warm-up tip: The training intensity of a warm up should gradually and progressively increase. Your warm up should begin at an intensity similar to walking. By the end of the warm up the intensity should reflect that of the workout.

Running warm up benefits

1: Increase in joint mobility
2: Increase in blood flow throughout the body
3: Increase in aerobic metabolism
4: Decrease in lactic acid production
5: Increases maximum power output
6: Orientates the trainer’s psychology to exercise
7: Enhanced neuromuscular function
8: Raises core and muscle temperature
9: Increases muscle flexibility

How long should running warm up be?

The duration of warm-up is largely dictated by the workout. For example, if you were going to complete this Low Impact Cardio Workout, a short 5-minute warm-up would probably suffice. Because the training session is relatively low intensity, a protracted warm-up is not necessary. Also, for such workouts, the warm-up can be integrated into the main session.

However, if you planned to pit your physicality against this gruelling 20-Minute Kettlebell HIIT Circuit, you would be wise to spend a solid 10-minutes warming up. In addition, your warm up should increase in intensity and include exercises specific to the workout. As the author of The Complete Guide to Sports Training advises, always ‘include exercises that mimic the movements required in the relevant sport’ and training discipline.

With that said, 10-minutes is widely considered the optimal warm-up length. 10-minutes is enough time to raise core temperature and orientate our minds to the coming demands of the workout.

Essential reading: 80/20 Running

Can running be a warm up?

Running is not a suitable warm-up – not immediately anyway. The muscles, tendons, and aerobic system are not yet prepared for the intensity of running. Participating in intense activity without warming up increases injury risk. Also, failing to follow the proper warm up process as outlined below, can impair physical performance.

Before you start running you should have completed a 10-minute warm up. The intensity of the warm-up will progressively increase. This gradually increases core and muscle temperature.

In addition, the warm up will consist of exercise-specific movements and drills such as walking, gentle jogging on the spot, and low-intensity resistance exercises like air squats, lunges, and plyometric jumps.

Only after such a warm-up should you start running.

Warm-up tip: Set aside a minimum of 10-minutes for your warm up. To ensure that you utilise the full duration, use a countdown timer. Don’t deviate from your warm up routine until the buzzer sounds!

Essential reading: Born to Run

What is a good running warm up?

All good warm-ups follow a process. Your warm up should always begin at a low intensity. For a running warm up this would be walking. Gradually or in stages, you would turn up the tempo by putting a bit more pace into your stride. You would maintain this output for around two to three minutes before including light resistance exercises.

When you feel your muscles warming up, again increase the intensity. For a running warm up this would be the equivalent of a slow jog. At this point along the warm up process, you have a couple of options to choose from.

First, you can work through a series of increasing intensity sprints. What might this look like? Let’s say that at your local park, where you are conducting a warm-up in preparedness for a 5-miler, there is 50-metre path. You might decide to perform four sprints. Starting at 60% max effort, you would increase by 10% after every sprint.

The second option includes completing a body weight complex. Select two to four simple exercises – squats, stepping lunges, plyo jumps and burpees – and progress up a repetition pyramid. Example:

full body warm up progression

  • 1 rep squats, stepping lunges, plyo jumps, press-ups and burpees

  • 2 reps squats, stepping lunges, plyo jumps, press-ups and burpees

  • 3 reps squats, stepping lunges, plyo jumps, press-ups and burpees

  • 4 reps squats, stepping lunges, plyo jumps, press-ups and burpees

  • 5 reps squats, stepping lunges, plyo jumps, press-ups and burpees

Running warm up

This article should have established the fact that warming up before your workouts is highly important. As we’ve seen, the warm up performs three essential functions.

First, warming up reduces injury risk. Second, it improves physical performance by bringing about a number of biological changes. Third, it can fire motivation and get us in the mood for training.

A well-designed progressive warm-up of just 10-minutes can confer these positive outcomes. The following running warm up has been designed to do just that.

10 minute running warm up routine

Phase 1: Relaxed walking pace for 2-minutes (low intensity)
Phase 2: Mobility exercises for 1-minute – ankle, and hip rotations and knee flexions (low intensity)
Phase 3: Slow jog for 2-minutes (low / moderate intensity)
Phase 4: Body weight exercises for 1-minute – air squats, stepping lunge, plyo jumps (5 reps each, repeat for time)
Phase 5: Moderate-pace jogging for 2-minutes (moderate intensity)
Phase 6: Progressive intensity sprint series:
  • 10-second sprint @ 50% max effort / 10-second walk/jog

  • 10-second sprint @ 60% max effort / 10-second walk/jog

  • 10-second sprint @ 70% max effort / 10-second walk/jog

  • 10-second sprint @ 80% max effort / 10-second walk/jog

  • 10-second sprint @ 90% max effort / 10-second walk/jog

  • 10-second sprint @ 100% max effort / 10-second walk/jog

Phase 7: Start your run!

This image outlines a 10 minute running warm up routine.

Related: Best Warm Up Exercises


Concluding the running warm up blog: This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume two. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: Over 70 fully customisable circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability; 4-Week Functional Fitness Training Programme; How to create your own circuits and workouts including essential training principles; Key exercise explanations and tutorials; A complete guide to fitness testing; The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge; CrossFit-style training sessions including EMOM, AMRAP, and HIIT workouts; An illustrated, step-by-step guide to stretching.


In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

52 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page