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Should you warm up before your marathon?

Two-time Canadian Olympic marathoner, Reid Coolsaet, insists that a warm-up is a good idea, but it's important to not go overboard

Photo by: Canadian Running

Most runners understand the purpose of warming up before a race, but the question remains: should you be doing a warm up before your marathon?

The warm up is a crucial activity to prep your muscles for the demanding marathon ahead. By increasing your core body temperature, a warmup speeds up the supply of oxygen to your hardworking muscles, promoting optimal performance. Additionally, this procedure boosts blood flow to the working muscles, priming them for the effort and effectively reducing the risk of injury.

TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2022
TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2022 start. Photo: Canada Running Series

While warming up is essential, it’s important to be mindful of the energy it requires. For shorter races like 5K or 10K, running out of energy is not a concern, given the race’s briefness. However, when you’re gearing up for a marathon that spans three-to-four hours, conserving energy and glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is vital.

Two-time Canadian Olympic marathoner and head coach of CoolsaetGo, Reid Coolsaet, advocates for a warmup but emphasizes not overdoing it. He suggests running enough before the race to hit your race pace off the start line. “You want to run enough before the race to hit your race pace off the start line,” says Coolsaet. “Five to 10 minutes of running and a few strides is plenty.”

Reid Coolsaet pre-race at the 2018 Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Photo: Matt Stetson

He notes that many marathon runners find themselves running at around warm-up pace for the first five or 10 minutes into the race. “Going beyond a 10-minute warmup may prove counterproductive, as it could lead to regrets later on, especially around the 40-kilometre mark,” says Coolsaet.

Another thing Coolsaet mentioned is to leave enough time between your warmup and the start of the race to navigate the porta-potty lines. GI issues can be a runner’s worst nightmare, especially only 10 kilometres into the race.

So don’t overlook the importance of a warmup, as it can be a gateway to ensuring that your body is primed to take on the distance and conquer your personal best. Get your muscles ready, conserve energy and tackle those 42.2 kilometres like a champion!

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