A good race starts with a good warm up! Below is a pre-race warm up routine guaranteed to set you up for success during your race, and to make sure your body feels good throughout!

Pre-Race Warm Up Routine: Registration & Check-In

First thing’s first, we have to make sure we’re registered and checked in for the race! If you already have your bib prior to race day, you still want to arrive 45 minutes to an hour before your start time to ensure optimal warm-up & bathroom time.

If you weren’t able to pick up your bib before race day, give yourself an hour and a half or so, just to make sure everything is the way you want it!

Pre-Race Warm Up Routine: Warm Up Jog

Once you’ve got your bib and you’re all registered, start with a 10-minute easy warm up jog. This will start to warm up your muscles, and it will also help you release some of that nervous energy that we all feel on race day.

Pre-Race Warm Up Routine: Upper Body Dynamic Warm Up Movements

These movements are crucial to opening up your hips and shoulders, and getting your body mechanically ready to run.

Arm Circles

Starting with the upper body and working our way down, we’ll start with arm circles. With your arms straight out to the side, begin with small arm circles, and gradually increase the range of motion until you’re making the biggest circle your arms can make.

Vary your speed with this to make sure none of those small muscles get missed. From there, gradually decrease the range of motion until you’re back to the original circle size.

Next, repeat all of that with your circles going in the opposite direction as the last time.

Arm Swings

After that, go ahead and do some arm swings, giving yourself a hug and then swinging them out as wide and as far back as possible to really open up the chest.

From there, swing your arms from front to back, loosening up all things upper body. We want to do 10 to 20 swings or circles in each direction.

Spinal Rotation

Lastly for the upper body, hinge over at your hips, and swing your arms in the same direction, rotating through your spine as you swing. Be sure to keep your back straight, keeping a straight line from hips to head.

Pre-Race Warm Up Routine: Lower Body Dynamic Warm Up Movements

Leg Swings

Similar to what we did for our upper body, we’ll start out with some leg swings to open up our hips.

Before swinging, just stand on one leg and find your balance for a bit, in order to stabilize your body and to begin engaging those lower leg muscles that help us balance.

From there, begin some easy leg swings front to back. Leg swings are crucial for hip extension, so increase your range of motion as you go, balancing on one leg the whole time.

Lunge Lowers

After 10 leg swings, kick back into a long lunge. With your abs tight and your hips facing forward, lower down and press up in the lunge 10 times. This will start to engage the bigger muscles in our leg that are about to do the bulk of the work!

Hip Circles

Once you’ve gone up and down 10 times, place both hands on the ground and make a circular motion with your hips, going around 10 times in each direction.

After that, begin to straighten that front leg, bringing your nose to your front knee or shin. Only lift your hips as high as you feel ready for, and repeat that action 10 times. This primes our hamstrings and gets the back of the leg ready to work!

Next, repeat all of these lower body movements on the other side!

Pre-Race Warm Up Routine: Run Drills

Now we’ll move into some running drills so that our body gets used to the motions, and our heart rate increases a little.

High Knees

Start with some high knees for about 10-15 seconds, putting in only about 50% effort. Once you’re finished, jog back to where you started.

Then repeat that same action putting in more effort, with higher knees to start to engage your abs and get a little sweat going.

Butt Kicks

Repeat that same pattern again with butt kicks. 10-15 seconds at 50% effort, jog back, and then repeat with a larger range of motion.

Straight Leg Running

Using the same pattern as the last two exercises, we’ll now do a straight legged run. Staying on the balls of your feet, run with straight legs, kicking them slightly out in front of you every time. Take it easy the first time, and then make the movement quicker and bigger the second time.

If those drills aren’t your favorite, no worries! Just pick 2 or 3 running drills (high skips, lateral shuffles, etc.) and use the format we’ve given.

Pre-Race Warm Up Routine: Striders

Next, find about 50-75 yards of open space. Starting slow, you’ll run the distance gradually increasing your speed, surpassing your race pace. Jog slowly back to the start, and repeat this 5 times.

This is going to encourage quick leg turnover, and it will really get our heart rate up! Remember to focus on a good arm swing during your striders, and let your stride length open up as you go.

Ideally, you want to time your warm up routine so that you’re done with all of the exercises and drills we’ve just given with 10-15 minutes to spare.

This will allow you to grab some water, calm your mind, fuel if you need to, and just do whatever last things you want to do before the gun goes off!

Watch the full warm up video below:

What’s your favourite pre-race warm up? Share with us in the comments.

Holly Martin

Holly Martin is a San Francisco-based running coach and personal trainer. With a 20+ year background in dance, Holly brings a strong focus on technique and mobility to all of her coaching. Currently, she trains clients at Midline Training and Nfinite Strength, and coaches online with The Run Experience, an online training community for running workouts and running training programs. Also read their blog for running tips.

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