How Long Should I Warm up Before a Road Race or Competition? And What Should I do?


Prior to any road race or competition, especially a cross country or track meet, it’s critical to warm up first. This allows you to get a good start, perform at your best, and avoid injuries. Usually this means stretching, lightly jogging and even doing some short sprints. If possible, you want to warm up on the track or in the area where you will be racing. For short races on roads or in the woods, it’s a good idea to run parts of the course in advance. On a track, you would typically run several slow laps.

I usually get to the location early and start about an hour before. Depending on the season and your climate, it also helps to keep wear sweat pants, wind pants (a shell with no lining) and a sweatshirt or windbreaker. Depending on the situation, for shorter races (like track meets) many athletes also warm up with standard training shoes, then switch to lighter “racing shoes” a few minutes before the start.

How long should you warm up? Ideally, studies have shown you’re ready when you’re “about to break a sweat”. However if the race is delayed or you started too soon, you may have to maintain this state longer. Likewise at the end of workout, race or competition, it’s also a good idea to warm down. I usually walk or lightly job for a few minutes.

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