Is a warm-up really necessary before a race?
A warm–up is necessary to prepare the body for exercise by increasing heart rate and blood flow to working muscles. A warm-up activity serves two major purposes—to enhance performance and prevent injury. Consequently, a warm-up is both physical and mental.
Most runners understand the value of warming up before a race. A warm-up primes your muscles for peak performance by increasing your core body temperature, which speeds oxygen throughout the body, loosens your legs, and triggers the neural pathways between your brain and your muscles, which improves muscle contraction and power.
Along with more blood flow comes an increase in muscle temperature. This is good because the hemoglobin in your blood releases oxygen more readily at a higher temperature. More blood going to the muscles, along with more oxygen available to the working muscles, means better performance.
Keeping the muscles warm will prevent acute injuries such as hamstring strains and will stave off overuse injuries by allowing the body to prepare steadily and safely. This is commonly seen in football matches where the substitutes jog, jump and stretch along the sidelines.
Warm up exercises are important as a form of mental preparation. Your mind can ease into the workout. This is especially helpful if you engage in a long run such as Ultra or Full Marathon.
How Much Should I Warm Up?
There is no hard evidence as to how much warm-up is needed before a workout or a race. At bare minimum, your warm-up period should be five minutes long. If you are practicing an intricate sport like gymnastics or ballet, you need much longer than five minutes to properly warm up.
Also, when your muscles are extremely sore from a previous workout, you will need to take more time to warm up. In general, aim for a five to 10 minute warm-up period before any workout. Flex this time frame up as needed, but never skip it. Also, do not abbreviate your warm-up to less than five minutes.