The Benefit of a Functional Warm Up for Runners

31 Oct


Here is a guest post that is sure to give you the most up to date information of the importance of a warm-up for Runners.  Jon- Erik Kawamoto has been a featured columnist in Impact Magazine, Canadian Running Magazine and BC Coaches Perspective magazine.

The Benefit of a Functional Warm Up for Runners

By Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Traditionally, the warm up had the focus of improving flexibility.  Static stretches would be performed on all major muscle groups with hopes of reducing injury risk and preparing the body for exercise, in our case a running workout or race.

The idea of a flexibility-based warm up has been proven to be ineffective and actually detrimental to subsequent power development and endurance running performance.  Static stretches are an important component of a strength and conditioning program, but it shouldn’t be placed prior to a running/gym workout or an intense race.

Having said that, the focus of the warm up needs to change.  A more appropriate warm up will focus on actually preparing you for that tough workout by increasing your internal body temperature and priming the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

The warm up should contribute to the development of balance, coordination, running mechanics, core strength, tissue quality and muscle activation.

A proper warm up should prepare the body physically and mentally for the intense workout or race that follows.  An active warm-up will enhance performance by improving:

  • range of motion
  • joint lubrication
    • oxygen uptake because of increased oxygen delivery to the working muscles and via an enhanced utilization of oxygen from the blood
    • the speed and force of muscle contractions because nerve impulses travel faster in a warm muscle compared to a cold muscle

A runner can start with foam rolling and/or The Stick, otherwise known as self myofascial release prior to starting his/her easy jog, typically lasting 5-20 minutes.  Foam rolling or The Stick will promote tissue quality and higher quality muscle contractions.  After this general warm up, it’s a great opportunity to perform dynamic stretches – stretches that are held for 2 seconds max, which are performed in a slight ballistic fashion, but under control.  Check out my ebook titled The Best Mobility Drills for Runners – get it FREE from  I go over several dynamic stretches that runners can do while warming up for an intense workout or race.

After the mobility drills are performed, your body should be quite warm now.  This is a great time to perform some muscle activation drills.  One of my favorites for runners is a single leg hip bridge – one variation I like to perform is called the knee hug hip lift.

After the muscle activation section of your warm up, proceed to your form drills and running strides.  This is the last phase of your functional warm up.  Stay tuned for a future blog post describing the best form drills for runners.  After your running strides you will be ready for a great workout!

But remember, don’t fatigue yourself before you even start your workout/race!  Take it easy in the warm up and take many breaks.  Remember, the warm up is supposed to prepare you for the workout/race, not tear you down!

A movement focused cool down is also beneficial to the runner to promote recovery after the intense workout/race.  Blood will be drawn back to the heart to prevent venous pooling and nutrient rich blood will be delivered to the broken down muscles.  The body’s internal temperature will drop and slowly return to the pre-workout/race state.  This usually consists of a 5-20 minute easy jog.

A flexibility focused cool-down following the easy cool down run will further lower the body’s core temperature while promoting proper muscle length.  This is the perfect time to promote flexibility – while the muscles are warm.  So hold each stretch for roughly 30 seconds.  Runners would benefit from stretching their upper and lower calf muscles, quads, hip flexors, hip rotators, hamstring muscles, chest and/or lats.

Thanks for reading,

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP

My name is Jon-Erik Kawamoto. I’m a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS – with the National Strength and Conditioning Association) and Certified Exercise Physiologist (CEP – with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology). I specialize in helping middle-to-long distance runners become strong and powerful. I have authored many articles on strength and conditioning for the endurance athlete in magazines such as Canadian Running, IMPACT, Canadian Cycling and the BC Coaches Perspective.  Get your FREE DVD titled 10 MIN to a Stronger CORE at


3 Responses to “The Benefit of a Functional Warm Up for Runners”

  1. Kelwona BC Chiropractors April 12, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    Nice Post!!!! Warm up is necessary before race or any kind of sports activity. The person does not know about the benefits of warm up, that should read this post. Its not compulsory that everybody knows the general things so this will prove so beneficial for that kind of persons. Now a days, nobody describes these general things, it is really knowledgeable post.

  2. Ken April 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Yes, it was an excellent post. Thanks for stopping by.


  1. The Functional Warm Up | - November 3, 2010

    […] article is called “The Benefits of a FUNCTIONAL warm up for […]

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