Runners, Warm Up Your Engines!

Have you ever run a race or start an interval workout where you find yourself breathing harder than you feel you should be at that pace, and your legs feel like they're stuck in mud? Eventually your body adapts and you begin to feel more comfortable, either in subsequent intervals or later in the race. This is why you run a warmup first.

Priming your body to run hard involves getting it used working at an elevated level with increased breathing, heart rate and blood flow to increase the flow of oxygen to your muscles. If you start to run fast without warming up, you quickly go into oxygen debt, and you end up re-living that common bad dream of trying to run, but feeling like you're stuck in quicksand.

Most common warmup routines start with about 10 minutes of easy running and some active stretching. The rest depends on the distance you're racing, or the type of intervals you're doing. For short intervals, a few strides and a couple 200-meter pickups at slightly faster than 5K pace should be sufficient. For races, you want to exceed your lactate threshhold for at least two minutes. . For a shorter race like a mile, two shorter intervals of 300-400 meters at 5K pace. For a 5K race, run up to 3:00 at 10K pace. For a 10K, 3:00 to 4:00 starting at medium tempo and increasing gradually to faster than half-marathon pace.

If you're racing a half-marathon or longer, it's usually better to skip the lactate threshhold portion, as you should be starting slow enough to not go into oxygen debt.

Experiment with different length and intensities and personalize your routine for what feels best for you. If you have a paraticular warmup routine that you swear by, feel free it share it in the comment section below!

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: Y, YMCA, Run, Running, Jog, fitness, warmup, racing, lactate threshhold

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