Optimize Your Pre-Race Warm-Up: Essential Tips

The warm-up before a race is often underestimated by amateurs. Professional athletes know exactly how to prepare, but for us occasional runners, it can be a point of confusion. Here are some tips for an effective and comprehensive warm-up that can make a difference.

Warm-Up Focus: Muscles, Joints, Engine

For a complete warm-up, it’s essential to focus on three elements: warming up the muscles, preparing the joints, and activating the engine. The usual light run as a warm-up is a good start, but it’s too generic. You should begin with exercises that promote flexibility and joint mobility.

Joint Mobility Exercises

After a short warm-up with a light run or brisk walk, integrating joint mobility exercises is beneficial. Movements such as the low sumo squat or leg raises in a skipping motion can release tension and increase hip and leg mobility. The aim here isn’t solely to stretch muscles but to make movements smoother, especially if you’re gearing up for a trail race.

Foot and Tendon Activation

Regardless of the race distance, having responsive and prepared feet is crucial. Small hops, low skips, or other drills can activate foot muscles and tendons to optimize elastic propulsion during the run.

Engine Stimulation

If the race is short and fast-paced, it’s essential to “rev up” the heart. Performing 50-100-meter strides for several repetitions can increase heart rate, preparing the body for the effort. The goal isn’t to tire but to activate and adapt the heart to fluctuations in heart rate.

How Long Should You Warm-Up?

Personally, I gauge warm-up duration in an inverse relationship to the race duration. For longer ultra-runs, if you can restrain yourself at the start (which isn’t my case), focusing on joint mobility at the beginning and gradually warming up in the initial race moments might work. Conversely, for shorter races like a 10K where you need to start at your top pace, dedicating several tens of minutes to warming up is advisable.


A proper warm-up readies both the body and mind for an efficient run. With these tips, you can optimize your pre-race warm-up, ensuring a start with the engine already revved up, ready to take on the challenge with vigor.