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How to Warm Up for a Marathon

By Rock 'n' Roll, 08/31/15, 12:15AM EDT

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Prime your body right for this challenging distance.

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, speeds oxygen delivery throughout the body, loosens your legs, triggers the neural pathways between your brain and your muscles and improves muscle contraction and power.

However, executing a proper warm-up requires energy and fuel.

For shorter races, this isn’t a concern since there is no chance of running out of glycogen. But, conserving energy and glycogen is an essential part of racing the marathon.

So, how do you balance priming your body for optimal performance with conserving energy for the long miles ahead?

The marathon warm-up starts when you wake up

The warm-up for a marathon starts hours before you cross the starting line.

You should be up at least 2.5 hours before your race.

Yes, I know this might be very early, but losing an hour of sleep won’t negatively impact your performance.

More importantly, research shows that it takes several hours for you to get your body temperature to its optimal levels and become fully awake, so getting up early ensures you’re fully ready to perform.

Waking up early will also allow you to be more alert, have time to fuel, use the bathroom and get your body primed for performance.

Perform a shakeout run

As soon as you wake up, throw on your running gear, lace up the shoes, and start shuffling out the door for a short shakeout run or walk.

You shouldn’t be running hard on your shakeout run. The main goal is to get blood and oxygen flowing to the muscles, so a slow jog or shuffle is sufficient. Run easy for about 10 minutes, include some light stretching if you feel tight, and then return to the hotel to get in your pre-race meal, hit the bathroom, and get ready to head to the starting line.

A shakeout run will stimulate your central nervous system, get blood flowing to the muscles, calm your nerves, and help you use the bathroom. More importantly, it allows you to do all these things and still have time to rest and refuel, so it doesn’t deplete your glycogen stores.

After you finish your shakeout run you can have a small breakfast, shower, relax and have plenty of time to get to the starting line stress-free.

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