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Male Sprinter Warming Up on Track

Warm-Ups for Sprint Athletes: A 101 Guide


A warmup routine is the specific method of practice you, as an athlete, will look to implement in preparation for high-intensity activities such as sprinting. 

Your warmups are essential. As an athlete, knowing what works best for you is crucial. Some athletes have long and intense warmups before racing. Then, on the other hand, you get some athletes with very short and snappy warmups consisting of only a few strides. This depends on how your body works and what you need to feel ready to race.

In the past, I have made the mistake of doing TOO much in warmup, which ended up harming my performance on that day. The reasoning for this being that I had tired myself out before the race had even begun. Just because you feel good in warmup and react well to the track and your surroundings does NOT mean you need to overdo it. If you are feeling great, keep it simple and only do as you normally would in training. Changing key parts of your warmup on a competition day can cause you unnecessary stress, so try and stick to what you and your coach would have agreed on prior to the race.

Sprint Athlete Preparing for Race


Injuries can, unfortunately, occur at times. As athletes, we must try to avoid injuries as we can (if not catered to adequately) cause significant disruption to our training and even overall lives in some cases depending on the damage which has been done. Prevention comes from better protecting yourself. Recovery and proper rest can help injury prevention. High-intensity training sessions take a lot out of the body, and without proper rest and recovery, it can lead to injury. If the muscles are overworked, it can cause minor strains that can worsen into full muscle tears. Recovery methods such as ice baths are helpful as they soothe the muscles and reduce inflammation. 

Male Track and Field Athlete Stretching

Another great way to prevent injury is by stretching. Stretching should ideally be done before and after your session. Pre-training stretching is done to warm the body up and prepare your muscles to run. Post-training stretching is done to help reduce the tension in your muscles and help boost your flexibility. Combining these two stretching techniques will help reduce the risk of injury.

Another way to prevent injury is by ensuring your equipment suits your training. As a sprinter, you should own a good pair of cushioned and stable trainers to run in. When you run and drill, your feet take a lot of impact, so having a good pair of trainers helps reduce the chances of injury. Poor footwear can also affect other things, such as posture, which can cause back issues.

One final method I would suggest for injury prevention is technique reinforcement. As an athlete, you want to know how to perform your required movements properly to avoid injury. For those of you who will now be training regularly in the gym, it is essential to know how to perform your lifts and movements properly to ensure they are done safely. If the correct technique is not taught and reinforced, it can lead to injury. The same goes for track-based movements such as hurdle jumps, hurdle walkovers and bounding. All of these movements require a specific technique to ensure they are carried out safely.

Athlete Starting Sprint Race on Starting Blocks


Running at your own pace with proper technique shouldn't cause injury. Regardless of your running speed, you should always do it efficiently to help reduce the risk of injury and fatigue. If anything, running slower to begin with would actually help to reinforce proper sprint technique. That's why when drills are being taught, they are usually performed at a slower pace to ensure that the specific movement patterns are being achieved. When performing these movements slowly, your coach can better observe your actions and make the relevant alterations. Speed can be increased over time as you become more confident with your technique. Going too fast without proper technique can cause injuries because if you cannot run properly, you can potentially lose control which can cause injury.

Female Sprint Athlete Warming Up on Track


The best running form is the most efficient. You want to reduce the amount of wasted movement when you're running. The more wasted motion, the more time you waste. Relaxation is key. You want to be able to run fast whilst remaining relaxed. Some athletes will tend to tighten up in the race's latter stages as their muscles fatigue. Being able to hold your technique and relaxation during the full duration of the race will help you to be more efficient. Drills such as A-skips, B-Skips and pitter-patters are all helpful in improving foot strike and ground contact. Arm drives also help to improve your arm movements when running. Doing these drills frequently with the help of a good coach will help you improve your running form over time. Eventually, you will become more fluid as you are running and can then feel more in control when you are running fast. 

Male Athlete Injury on Track


Various injuries can cause you to take extended periods away from training. The more common injuries tend to be hamstring injuries. I myself have dealt with these, and at the time, I was unaware of how to care for an injury properly, so it dragged out for a lot longer than it should have. Injuries can take much longer to heal without proper care, which can be very frustrating. In sprinting, the hamstrings are used a lot. This particular injury can be caused by overuse, lack of proper warmup or lack of strength. The body has to be fit for purpose. This is where strength & conditioning comes in. The right strength & conditioning programme will aid your training and help reduce injuries as your muscles will be stronger, which means they can withstand the high amounts of force they resist when you run. 

If the muscles aren't strong enough to withstand the force you're creating, it can cause your muscles to strain and eventually tear. Shin splints are another common sprint injury. Due to the nature of sprinting in the sense that you are applying repeated force into the ground on each step, this injury can happen for this exact reason, alongside running too often and too quickly. Other vital muscles, such as the quadriceps, glutes, calf and groin can also be pulled or strained due to overstretching. The R.I.C.E method of rest, ice, compression and elevation is a helpful guideline for how to care for muscular injuries. 

Male Sprint Athlete Stretching


A good warmup for sprinting will be what works best for you as an individual. Some of you may opt to jog a lap or two before you start, and some may instead choose to go straight into your stretching or strides. It is vital to keep it the same regardless of where you are. Your coach may also want you to reduce the warmup between rounds depending on your feelings. But it's crucial to maintain some consistency in your warmup. You may see many athletes doing all sorts of things around you, but choose to keep your routine the same.

Drills are always great as they reinforce the movements you will look to emulate when you race. This then transitions nicely into your strides or faster runs in spikes. Going from drills to runs is a steady transition that takes you from performing a movement to executing those same movements in upright running. If you are unable to complete your usual warmup due to lack of space or facilities, then look to make the necessary adjustments as best as possible.

Use whatever is available to ensure you feel ready and comfortable with your warmup process. It would help if you aimed to plan your warmup before the race to minimise stress. Starting your warmup too late can cause you to rush and panic, which you don't want to be doing, and creating your warmup too early can lead you to cool down right before you run, which you also don't want.

Ultimately, just have fun with your warmup. Please don't see it as a competition for who can warm up the best. Just see it as what it is, which is a warmup and an opportunity to get warm in preparation for the race.

Female Athlete Doing Lunges on Athletics Track


This again depends on you as the individual. Some athletes will take around an hour to warm up. This hour could consist of a jog, stretching & mobility work, activation, drills, strides, rest breaks and block work. You may take longer to do this same routine simply because you prefer to take your time, which is absolutely fine. The only thing to consider would be between rounds. If you take over an hour to warm up, but between rounds, the meeting organisers have only given you an hour's rest before the next round, you will have to shorten your warmup to suit. It would likely mean some aspects of your warmup would have to change. Both you and your coach should look to have this conversation before this so you know what changes you would need to make if that situation were ever to occur. It would help if you planned the warmup in relation to the schedule. Each competition is different, so aim to plan your warmup on a case-by-case basis per the relevant timetable. 

Destiny Ogali Training at Athletics Track

Overall, your warmup routine should help prepare you to race. Try and find what works best for YOU. Have fun and enjoy the process that leads up to the race. Nerves may arise, but remember that each race is an opportunity to learn, grow and gain experience. 


Destiny Ogali Neuff Athletic Blogger

Destiny is a sprinting athlete who competes for Harrow AC, and he is incredibly passionate about helping other sprinters and athletes go further in their athletic journeys!

He already has experience in discussing athletics topics with others through The Visions Podcast, where he has sat down and spoken with some great athletes, including Desiree Henry and Aidan Syers! 

You can find Destiny's sprint performances on his Power of 10 profile.

Instagram: @destinyogali & @thevisionspod

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