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Warming up before a race

Warming up before a race

Race day You have been following your trail running training plan to the letter for months. You have taken care to prepare physically, to the point of adapting your diet for endurance. You have picked up your race number. There is only one step left before starting along the trails: the warm-up.


Starting by running slowly is a very good way to prepare the muscles which work hard when running.

During this short low-intensity jogging session for about 15 minutes, remember to loosen up your arms. You can also do a few upper body movements.

Your heart rate should remain low, especially at the beginning of the warm-up. You can use a heart rate monitor, but the best thing is to concentrate on how you feel. If you have to breathe through your mouth, you are running too fast.


You have run a little and you feel that your muscles have loosened up? It is time to stretch.

Don't do anything extreme, you should just feel a pull.
Begin with your leg muscles:

  • calves
  • thighs
  • quadriceps
  • adductors
  • glutes

You can then move onto the upper body:

  • back muscles
  • trapezius muscles
  • pectorals
  • arm muscles

Alternate the left and right side for each muscle stretched.

It is important to do these stretching exercises once you have warmed up. Cold muscles are stiff and you risk tearing them by pulling too much.


Of course, you are not going to warm up in the same way for a vertical kilometer and an ultra-trail. Likewise, it depends on whether it is hot or cold.

Short-distance trail run

Over a short distance, you make a more intense effort and start more quickly

You must warm up for longer and more thoroughly for this type of challenge. Raise your heart rate a little higher at the end of the warm-up to prepare your heart.

However, don't go as far as doing an interval session and arriving at the start line dripping with sweat!

Long-distance trail run and ultra-trail

Your warm-up for a long race should not make you lose too much energy. You need a shorter warm-up. Then use the first part of the race.

Start off gently if you know that you have warmed up lightly. If your strategy is to start quickly to avoid bottlenecks, for example, do a complete warm-up session.

Adapting to the weather conditions

Off road running goes hand in hand with unpredictable weather! Pay attention to the conditions. If it is hot, remember to keep well hydrated during your warm-up. If it is cold, wrap up more at the beginning of the session and don't arrive at the start line too early.

How to train for a 10km race
How to train for a half marathon


It is also beneficial to prepare mentally before a race. Put yourself in a good frame of mind and take stock a little:

  • What is my race plan?
  • What are my goals?
  • What strategy am I going to adopt?
  • What do I want to get out of this race?
  • Are there any unforeseen circumstances? How am I going to deal with them?

It's a good way to concentrate and release any stress before the race begins. Go on, relax. It's going to be fun!

The danger with a trail running race is starting off too quickly because you want to keep up with the other runners. If your muscles are not warmed up enough, they will fill more quickly with lactic acid and rapidly seize up. Having a proper warm-up routine before a race is therefore part of good preparation.

Have a good race and see you at the finish line!

Learn more on our Stories & Guides trail running page.

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