Implementing (and actually doing) a warm up routine prior to running is very important to the overall health of a runner.
Can you get away with not warming up prior to a run? Yes. Even the best runners are occasionally guilty of not warming up before a run. Is it good to constantly forgo a warm up? No way.
Let me tell you a few ways that warming up, or priming your body, is good for runners of all ability levels:
For starters, have you ever tried starting your car early in the morning in the dead of winter? It’s a bit sluggish and resistant to start, right? That’s pretty much how your body feels after a night of sleep.
Secondly, a good warm up routine should be efficient. I think a really solid warm up routine should take you no more than 5-10 minutes. You can easily prepare for a run in 5 minutes and it won’t detract from your already busy schedule. I know very well that you can afford to spend 5 minutes to have a much better run.
Lastly, an active warm up is designed to bridge the gap for your heart, from resting to running. Not only is it not good to go from “zero to 100”, an active warm up helps you safely and slowly raise your heart rate from your resting beats per minute to what you plan on starting your run at.
Below, I’ll outline the actual warm up drills you should do – again, this shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes. It’s totally worth it and will not cut into your run time, recovery time, or Netflix time!
Pre-Run Warm Up Routine
Each of these exercises, or drills to be precise, should be done while walking. You should aim to cover roughly 20 meters per drill. If you really wanted to maximize this warm up routine, you could do a short 5-10 minute jog (no GPS required) that’s only goal is to warm up prior to your actual run.
While we call it toes, it’s really more “ball of your foot”. We’re practicing being tall, elongating our hamstrings and calves, firing our glutes and landing with our hips over our feet.
Heel walking works on mimicking running tall with a good forward lean. When you are tall and leading with your belly button, you are more likely to be out over your feet when they land, rather than behind them.
Not sure how to warm up before a run? Let #TrainwithMarc show you some simple drills to get your ready to #run!Tweet
This drill got the name “scoops” from some of my middle school runners and it comes from how you “scoop” the ground from behind your foot. This stretches your hamstring and calf – point your front toe toward the sky, scoop from behind your heel through and past your toes. Remember to keep your hips and shoulders facing forward.
Knee to chest
Grab just below your knee, flex your foot and pull your knee toward your chest. With this exercise, we’re stretching our hamstring.
Start by grabbing the top of your foot and bringing your heel toward your butt. After 3 seconds, release, walk and grab the other foot. Continue for 20 or so meters. This stretch will work all four muscles that make up the quad.
The IT Band drill is a really good drill to work on if you’re prone to hip or knee issues. The IT Band runs from your hip to your knee and can get aggravated and cranky due to overuse issues. The actual drill is performed by putting your right ankle on your left knee (figure 4 pose) and squatting down. This is really good for balance and for elongating the IT band.
Have IT Band issues? You’ll want to read this article.
This is a great drill for mimicking running form. You’ll want to have 90 degree angles: ankles dorsi-flexed, quads parallel to the ground; elbows making 90 degree angles too. The maneuver simulates what a sprinting runner might look like and doing this drill is good practice for that good running form.
High knees is a really good drill to practice to incorporate being light on your feet. This drill reinforces having very short contact with the ground – once your foot hits the ground, the goal is to get it right back up into the air. With this drill, you’ll want to pull your heel up toward your glute (butt) using your hamstring.
Similar to high knees, the “A Skip” drill helps develop lower-leg strength while encouraging knee lift and promoting an efficient footstrike.
Jump for Height
Jumping for height is the last drill for a reason – it’s the most active of all the drills. The goal is to jump up high, high, high, like you are trying to reach the clouds. It is really good at engaging and activating your calves.
These drills can be and should be done right before you go for your run. These 10 drills should be done over the course of 20 meters and should take you less than 5 minutes. This 5 minute primer is great to improve flexibility and mobility.
When you’ve checked out this post, you can scroll down and fill out the form for a pdf of the routine. You can save it to your Google Drive and access it at any time. Have any questions? You can ask me at any time. You’ll get an email from me with the full routine + you’ll be added to my newsletter.
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!
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Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.