How to Warm up and Cool Down for Running

The right way to start and end your running workouts

Two females walking together along the portland waterfront.
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All of your runs should start with a warm-up and end with a cooldown. Why are they so important? A good warm-up dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen before you give them a vigorous workout. It also raises the temperature of your muscles for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart when you start your run.

Just as critical, the cooldown keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure might drop rapidly. Winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually.

How to Do a Proper Warm-up

  • It's not a good idea to stretch cold muscles, so don't start with stretching.
  • Do about 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to loosen up your muscles and warm you up for your run. Some good pre-run warm-up exercises include walking briskly, marching, jogging slowly, or cycling on a stationary bike. Make sure you don't rush your warm-up.
  • Begin your run. Don't start out racing, but instead jog slowly at first and gradually build up your speed. You should be breathing very easily. If you feel yourself getting out of breath, slow down. This is part of knowing how fast you should run, and it's easy to start off too fast.
  • Pay attention to your running posture and form when you begin your run, ensure you are using the best technique before you speed up.

    How to Do a Proper Cooldown

    • After you finish your run, cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5 to 10 minutes. Your breathing and heart rate should gradually return to normal.
    • Drink water or sports drink to replenish yourself.
    • Now is a good time to stretch since your muscles are warmed-up. Stretching is easier when your body is still warm after your cooldown.

      Stretching Tips for After Your Run

      Essential post-run stretches include the hamstring stretch, quad stretch, calf stretch, low lunge stretch, IT band stretch, butterfly stretch, hip and back stretch, arms and abs stretch, and triceps stretch. Use these tips for proper stretching:

      • Don't bounce while stretching. Hold still on each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
      • Don't stretch through pain. Don't stretch beyond the point where you begin to feel tightness in the muscle. You shouldn't push through muscle resistance and never stretch to the point of pain. As you feel less tension, you can increase the stretch a bit more until you feel the same slight pull.
      • Make sure you stretch both sides. Don't just stretch your left calf because you feel tightness on that side. Make sure you're stretching both sides equally.
      • Don't hold your breath. Stay relaxed and breathe in and out slowly. Make sure you don't hold your breath. Take deep belly breaths.


      Mcgowan CJ, Pyne DB, Thompson KG, Rattray B. Warm-Up Strategies for Sport and Exercise: Mechanisms and Applications. Sports Medicine. 2015;45(11):1523-1546. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0376-x.