How Long Should You Warm Up Before a Run?

A good warm-up can prime your body for a workout or race, but just how long and what kind of warm-up does your body need?

Research supports that pre-run warm-ups need to be tailored to the type of workout or race to best prepare the cardiovascular and muscular systems for a workout. Still, it's tough to balance what's enough to ready the body without causing fatigue during your workout or race.

What a Warm-Up Does

An effective warm-up should raise your core body temperature. This is especially important if you're heading into a workout in wintertime. A warm-up also increases blood flow to your muscles and primes your heart for an increase in activity. Aim for a warm-up that activates your muscles and prepares them to work.

Keep in mind: Most experts agree that runners shouldn't wait longer than 10 minutes between their warm-up and start time, or they risk losing some of the benefits of the warm-up.

More: The Best Warm-Up Exercises for Runners

What's the Best Warm-Up?

There's some debate over which activities are best for warming up and how long you should perform them.

"For easy and long runs, there's no need to warm up," says Jason Karp, author of "Running a Marathon for Dummies.'" "The first few minutes serve as a warm-up."

"When runners do other kinds of workouts (intervals, tempo runs, etc.), the warm-up starts slow and finishes at the same pace as the workout so there is a smooth transition from the warm-up to the actual workout pace."

Race day warm-ups are also a little different, Karp says.

"The shorter the race, the more vigorous the warm-up. For the marathon, there is not much need for most runners to warm up, other than to do a few mobility exercises. For the marathon, runners need to conserve as much glycogen as possible so they only need to warm up enough to feel awake and ready to run," he says.

More: 7 Running Drills to Warm Up the Right Way

Warm-Up Options

Use these tips as a guideline and find what works best for your body. Also, be sure to add more time if needed, especially if you're working out in cold weather.

Easy runs (optional or part of run)
Walk or jog easily and gradually for 5 to 10 minutes.

Long runs (optional or part of run)
Jog at an easy pace for up to 10 minutes.

Speed workouts
Jog for up to 20 minutes and follow with dynamic stretching, such as high knees or butt kicks.

Race day
5K: Jog 15 to 20 minutes and follow with 6 to 8 strides. (Strides are gradual accelerations where you increase your speed to 95 percent of your maximum speed. Each stride should last 20 to 30 seconds.)

10K: Jog 10 to 15 minutes and follow with 6 to 8 strides.

Half marathon: Jog for 10 minutes and follow with 4 to 6 strides.

Marathon: Jog 5 to 10 minutes and follow with up to 4 strides.

More: The Ideal Pre-Race Warm-Up

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About the Author

Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer and journalist living in the Dallas, Texas area. She has worked for the Houston Chronicle, the Abilene Reporter-News and the Galveston County Daily News. She is an active runner and regularly competes in races in north Texas. She is currently training for her first half marathon. She blogs at and tweets at @acasanova10.

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