Be honest – do you always warm up before a run? Many of us skip or rush this vital step but a proper pre-run routine will prepare your body for the session ahead.
Everyone knows that warming up before running is important, but according to a recent study, around 75 percent of runners don’t bother. Why is this?
Many runners just don’t know what to do – how to warm up properly or which exercises to do. Others just don’t realise the importance or the benefits, and some just claim they don’t have time.
Warm up benefits
A good warm up before running will prepare your body for the training session ahead, whether that’s a tough track session, a long easy run or a steady tempo. Do a warm up before every run.
It’s important to do exercises that are specific to running and mimic the running movement.
Don’t do static stretching before running (save that for afterwards if you must – but that’s another debate altogether).
A good “dynamic” mobilisation warm up increases the range of movement of the joints and will activate muscles – reducing your risk of injury and allowing you to run with better form. Warming up also raises the heart rate, breathing rate and core temperature, especially if you’re doing a harder run or race.
It’s also important to include some basic drills involving balance and co-ordination work in your warm up. These dynamic movements and drills prepare the body for running, engage the muscles and encourage better technique and form.
Many of the exercises we do as part of the warm up may not seem that important, but by improving your proprioception, co-ordination and balance, you’ll run with better form and reduce your risk of injury longer term.
Make it specific
Match your warm up to your session. So if you’re doing reps on a track, a race or hills reps, you might want to spend more time warming up than you would before an easy recovery run; so make it specific to the level of intensity you’ll be working at.
Don’t neglect the warm up! It’s important. It will only take 5 minutes, but will make a big difference to your running. Get into a routine before each run and notice the difference it makes to your running.
The Warm Up
This warm up routine has been designed for all runners – beginners and advanced. It includes a blend of drills and mobilisations, that will develop better balance, proprioception, muscle activation and co-ordination. Concentrate on doing each exercise perfectly and with good form and technique.
1) Leg swings
Mobilises the hip joint, opens up the hip flexors and actively stretches the hamstrings. There is balance and proprioception involvement too.
Stand on one leg, balancing or holding on to a wall or fence. Swing the leg from the hip joint forwards and backwards, gradually increasing the range of motion. Avoid arching your back.
Do 15 on each leg. On the last 5 of each set, allow the heel to curl up to the buttocks, engaging the hamstring.
2) Arm Drive
Encourages arm drive and increases heart rate. Practising on the spot provides some pre-run muscle activation and movement patterning.
Elbows at 90 degrees, hands relaxed and just in front of your ribs. Keep knees soft and relaxed. Mimic a controlled ‘running arm drive’ on the spot for 20-30 seconds, increase the pace and focus on quality movement, avoid crossing midline and keep shoulders relaxed.
3) High Knee Marching
Starts to increase heart rate as movement becomes more dynamic. Activates glutes, quads and hamstrings and improves co-ordination.
Bring knee up to waist-height straight up in front of you and march quickly to raise the heart rate. Repeat x20.
High Knee Marching with Rotations
Increases heart rate further and begins to warm you up more fully. As above but bring opposite elbow to opposite knee with trunk rotation. Repeat x20.
4) Ankle mobilisations
Mobilises the ankle joint, actively stretches the calf and improves proprioception and balance. Stand on one leg, balancing carefully. Rotate the ankle in a circle, drawing a big ‘O’ with your toes. Repeat x5 in each direction. Then point and flex your foot x5 on each leg.
Swap legs and repeat.
5) Butt kicks
Brilliant to activate the hamstrings, encourages heel lift when running and actively stretches out the quads. Step from foot to foot, firing the heels up underneath your butt, alternating legs. Keep the toe pointed down and aim for a ‘cycling action’ (not a traditional butt flick), activating both hip flexors and hamstrings. Repeat x20.
Progress it: Jog on the spot and bring in butt kicks.
6) High arch taps
Mobilises the hips, actively stretches the glutes and piriformis. Promotes co-ordination and balance. Tap the inside of your foot with opposite hand. Bring the leg up rather than reach down to the foot. Repeat x20.