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Kortuk and I were reading a blog post from Sweat Science that argues we should do harder warm-ups, because they increase our performance.

It turns out there’s plenty of physiology behind this. If you suddenly start running at a hard pace, with no warm-up, it takes a while before your body can adjust to start delivering oxygen to your muscles at its maximum possible rate. That’s one of the reasons VO2max tests take 10-12 minutes, rather than simply involving a short, all-out sprint. It takes time for the blood flow to your muscles to increase, and for the enzymes that extract oxygen from the blood and oxidize fuel to ramp up their activity levels. A good warm-up gets this ramp-up process over with, allowing your body up to deliver more oxygen to muscles right from the start of the workout or race, and reducing the temporary oxygen debt.

However, there's a delicate balance between increasing your activity levels and depleting your anaerobic energy stores and metabolite build up. In contrast, my MiCoach training program always has a 5 minute gentle jogging warm-up. So clearly, there's some disagreement about what I should be doing.

As I'm doing a marathon training program it feels awkward to me to 'waste' so much energy at the start of my workout. But on my 30 minute workouts, a 5 minute intensive warm-up might ensure a more pleasant 20-25 minutes workout afterwards. My hypothesis would be that its mainly important before races or interval training, where higher activity levels from the start will mean you get a head start compared to still having to warm-up.

So should I switch from a gentle warm-up to a more intensive warm-up? Will it make every workout more pleasant or is it better suited for higher performance/interval workouts?

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Is there an answer that suitably answers your question? If so, could you please accept. Thanks. –  Christopher Ickes May 15 '11 at 19:10

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Depends on your race distance. For races involving mostly aerobic energy, I think you are ok to stick to the simple 10-15 minute "get blood flowing" warm up.

For races that involve more anerobic energy, try this 30 minutes before you race. 1) 10 minutes easy designed to get blood in the legs and the lungs. 2) 2-3 minutes a little below race intensity. 3) 30 seconds a little above race intensity. 4) 60 second easy jog. 5) a few strides

If the race is less than a 1600, break the 2-3 minutes into 2 45 second intervals below race intensity with 30 second jog between. This gets blood to the desired areas, increases heart beat and also makes the brain adjust to faster than race pace so race pace seems easier.

Good luck and good running.

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I have asthma, so I find it important to warm up well in order to avoid breathing problems. For me, that means a gradual ramp up to the heart rate I will use for the activity. If I am jogging for an hour, I can walk for a little bit and then slowly increase speed as I feel comfortable.

When I was younger and raced in cycling events, my heart rate might climb to 185 at the very beginning of the race, so I made sure that my warm up got me close to that rate as well. For me, it is the quick initial increase in heart rate that causes problems. I think that is because the blood vessels have not dilated completely yet, and therefore this would benefit everyone. But maybe it is just because I have asthma.

My strategy was to ladder up to the target. For example, I would make my heart rate go to 100,90,120,110,130,120,140,130, etc. Your mileage may vary, but this worked for me.

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