This may seem like an odd question, but outside of exercise, when I have to run, I usually don't have an opportunity to warm up. It's jogging down to the store during my lunch break, or running to catch a bus, things like that. I would like to be able to run those short distances with less sweat and heavy breathing. The rule of thumb I keep hearing for exercise is that you train for what you want to attain, but I also know that jumping into an exercise without warming up is a good way to get injured through exertion of cold muscles.

Is my best recourse to just increase my general endurance by running in a conventional manner and hope that the effects bleed over, or is there a better way to train for spontaneous effort?

  • Very relevant for us older adults who start needing too much warmup before doing anything.
    – Noumenon
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 4:49
  • 1
    For the competitive athlete: I want to point out that in addition to the other points mentioned, warming up is done to slowly increase your heart rate. If I go from sitting to doing 800m repeats, I will not have a fun time, but if I go from sitting to 800m with 20 minutes of warmup jogging, dynamics, and strides, I'll feel great and will get much more benefit out of the workout.
    – user15313
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 23:00

4 Answers 4


In short, for the question of preventing injury, it's entirely relative to one's current fitness, nutrition, age, and current physical status. There is never a guarantee that stretching and warming up will prevent injury. The point of warming up is to limit the likelihood.

For example: if one in relatively good shape and is relatively young and have no physical limitation such as a leg cramp, then in the cases you mentioned the risk of injury, in exercising with out warm-up, is relatively low.

Conversely, in the other extreme, if one is relatively old, over weight, never works out, eats unhealthy, and currently has a leg cramp, then injury would be highly likely to occur.

In both cases, however, injury is neither guaranteed to occur or not occur. Sorry the answer is not definite but in this case one cannot speak in absolutes.

That said, Yes, it would be helpful in preventing injury to increase your fitness in a given activity in spontaneous things like running short distances before engaging in them to better condition your body. Spontaneous efforts will, at first, engage the fast twitch muscles so you'll also want to add a strength training regiment. Strength training will benefit you most for explosive efforts.

If your ultimate goal is simply to do it with less hard breathing and sweating then cardio/pulmonary workouts [i.e. exercises that strengthen the lungs and heart] can increase lung and heart efficiency. Strength training is great for your heart but does little for lung endurance. This is where HIIT may become useful.

As for sweating though, arguably, if you have to exert less efforts to receive same benefit then your body will need to sweat less but, at the same time, the more fit you are, the more easily you will sweat. See this article.. Other factors come into play as well such as ambient temperature, hydration, etc. For the issue of sweating, you can wear clothes that well breathe well and dissipate the sweat.

HIIT is great for the lungs and heart but it is not a replacement for strength training and will not produce the same results in the short term or even long term. HIIT is the perfect method for losing fat while retaining muscle mass. It is also a good way to train for spontaneous activities especially if you also desire to burn calories. Some people define HIIT differently, so I'll add this qualifier Weight training being -i.e. weighted squats, leg press, calf extensions, lunges, etc. and HIT being non-weighted High Intensity Workouts. Some HIIT techniques involve weighted exercise but they're applied with a different methodology. The focus with HIIT is to burn calories not to build muscle strength. One of the drawbacks of HIIT is that many of it's activities may put you at risk of injury. If you're concerned about injury or have had a recent injury, I wouldn't recommend HIIT.

More on why HIIT is not a replacement for strength training:

“EMG techniques make it possible to study recruitment order, the relationship between stimulation and the amount of force developed, the type of muscle contraction (concentric vs. eccentric) and the effects of fatigue. EMG analysis in my study showed the approximate percentage of the recruitment of muscle fiber types in the quadriceps of a trained athlete during execution of a one repetition squat with progressively increasing loads.

Starting with 60% of one-repetition maximum, the slow-twitch fibers contribute 60 percent to the effort; fast-twitch fatigue resistant fibers, 30 percent; and fast-twitch fatigable 10 percent. At 100 percent maximum effort, however, the percentage of slow-twitch fibers involved is only 5%, while fast-twitch fatigue resistant is 15 percent, and fast-twitch fatigable is 80 percent.

The implications for athletic-type strength training are clear. To develop strength in the fast-twitch fibers you have to train with heavy weights. Light weights contribute little to optimizing strength and power performance. “

For complete article see: http://www.drdarden.com/readTopic.do?id=412352


When jogging to the store, you can still use the concept of warming up by starting off slowly until your circulation increases, your muscles warm up and your joints lubricate.

Running to catch a bus is different and requires that your body can handle a sprint. The most likely injury here is a pulled calf muscle or Achilles tendon injury from the sudden maximal contraction as you push off. To help prevent that type of injury, a general exercise program of running and daily stretching is a good way to go. (See this q/a for calf stretches. developing calf and hip flexor flexibility). By increasing your overall fitness, the body is better prepared to handle sudden exertions.

Specificity - You may want to also include sprints or high intensity intervals in your exercise program. HIIT is an efficient and effective way to train, esp. cardio. If your joints are not in the best shape, you may find sprints or HIIT are easier to begin in the water.


Generally I think warming-up is overrated. I'm pretty sure evolution selects against people who stretch and do a warm-up jog in response to a crisis situation. If you're healthy, a spontaneous effort shouldn't hurt you. Case in point: I regularly chase my dog up the driveway at full speed after her nightly walk. I also run 20 miles a week so my legs are very used to the motions of running.

I should point out that "full speed" is relative. With a bit of a warm-up, "full speed" becomes noticeably faster. I suspect that when my muscles are cold, they don't have their full range of motion and limit my stride length thus slowing me down. So warming up is good if you're about to enter a race.

Warming up is also good if you're going to be doing a lot of jumping, turning, etc, as if you were playing basketball, soccer, etc.

I've never injured myself due to failure to warm up. However, I have been injured from continuing to exercise on fatigued muscles. This has been both in the form of over-use injuries such as runner's knee, and catastrophic injury such as a pulled hamstring when diving after a Frisbee (but it was a highlight reel catch to be sure :-)


I am 69 years old jogger. have completed 17 marathons, last one on last Valentine's Day here in Los Angeles. I do try to run 4-5 days a week, 40 minutes each. Most of the year I run on a treadmill to protect my joints! No warm up, just start the machine on 6 miles/hr and move on to 7.5 miles/hr in 5 minutes and stay there, ending the run with 5 minutes of slow pace at 5 miles/hr. My last official time at the L.A. marathon was 5:50, but I had 3 bathroom stops, each taking 15-18 mins.

I have been slowed down recently, but don't have any limiting injuries. Doctors tell me part of loss of performance is because of my 2 years of chemotherapy, but I think normal aging has been a culprit too. I have not taken exercise too seriously. Even when running a marathon, if tired, I slow down. I was kind of a hobbyist runner and skier all my life. My motto is, "easy does it!" Yes, you can keep running even while fighting stage 4 cancer, and up to an advanced age. I feel I can keep running for the rest of my life! My heart and lungs are pretty strong, 125/76 and 55 resting heart beat. I keep my heart beat at 160 over half an hr every time I run. Not sure if it's the right thing to do but I am beyond these worries, I'm still here!

In all my life, I have been jogging and running without any warm up. I don't mean to advise this for everybody. But I'm sure that for people like me who have kept a steady schedule of exercise there should be no problem unless they have an issue they are aware of. If any thing, I guess my body anticipates what is expected of it when I put on my running shoes. I feel my heart race a bit when I'm mentally all whipped up to go.

  • 2
    Good to hear of your good experience, but what advice do you have for working into being able to jump right in without a warmup?
    – Sean Duggan
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 13:14

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