How Long Should Your Warm-Up Be?

Take stock of your training goals to find the right amount of warm-up time before a tough workout.


Shelley asks: I’m training for my second marathon, and lately I’ve been running a 4.8km warm-up before my speed workouts, which are usually once or twice a week. Is that warm-up too long?

A 4.8km warm-up is long, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. While a one kilometre warm-up is usually adequate before most speed workouts, what’s more important is your intention behind that longer priming period. If your goal in doing a longer warm-up is to increase your total weekly mileage, this can be a great way to get in a few more kilometres – the slower, easier pace is kinder and gentler on the body.

When doing specific speed workouts, you should have a goal pace to target. Take note of your pace during these faster sessions and be sure you are hitting these prescribed paces. If you are, then you can be assured that the longer warm-up is not detracting from workout. In fact, since you are training for a marathon, these longer workouts should help you achieve your marathon goals. If your legs feel tired and you’re not hitting those paces, then it is possible the longer warm-up is taking too much out of your before you even start.

Recovery is also important, so look for signs of overtraining when running higher mileage. A higher than normal resting heart rate, aches or pains, lack of motivation, a higher than normal perceived exertion level or missing your times on your workouts can all be signs of overdoing it.  If that happens, take some recovery time, reassess and cut back on mileage where you can

Another option for increasing weekly mileage is to add on during the cool-down phase of your run. Again, this can help simulate the marathon experience by helping you become accustomed to running on tired legs.

Speed workouts are typically five to eight kilometres in length, so running a three or five kilometre warm-up and a one kilometre cooldown could give you a total of nine to 14 kilometres, which is not bad for a weekday training run.

Related Articles