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Warm-up exercises for runners

Warm up exercises for runners

We’ve already shared the importance of warming up before a run, but not too many details of how runners should warm up.

I’ll admit, my warm-up consists of just running at a slower pace for the first mile, but that’s really it. During my high school track days, I remember my coach used to make us do exercises like high knees, butt kicks, and strides before the meat of each practice. However, I haven’t given any of those exercises a second though since then.

Which is a huge mistake. That slow mile I run in the beginning of a workout is a great starting point to a warm-up – it elevates my body’s core temperature and loosens up my muscles. But after that 10 minute general warm-up, I should be doing a specific warm-up that includes repetitive movements that take my joints through a full range of motion. Doing this will ensure that my muscles are ready to go when I increase my speed during a workout or a race – which will not only help my performance, but will also reduce the risk of injury.

I guess my former track coach wasn’t making us do those warm-up exercises for no reason. I should still be doing a full warm-up before intense workouts so my legs are ready to work. Here are the exercises I plan on adding to my warm-up routine:

With all of these exercises, start slowly and focus on good form. As the move gets easier, pick up the pace.

  • Walking lunges. Do about 10 lunges walking forward, then turn around and do walking lunges back to your starting position.
  • Skipping. Skip for 25-50 meters, increasing the height and distance of each skip as you go along.
  • Side step or side jogging. Turn to the side and step to the right for about 10-25 meters. Then step to the left to get back to your starting point. Do another set and pick up the pace so that you’re side jogging from point A to point B.
  • High knees. Stand tall and run in place, but exaggerate each step so that you bring your knee up as high as you can. Once you have the motion of high knees down, move it forward for about 10-20 meters.
  • Butt kicks. This is the opposite of high knees. Instead of bringing your knees up in front of you, exaggerate your kick so your foot hits your butt with each step. After you master butt kicks in place, bring it forward for 10-20 meters.
  • Strides. End every warm-up with a set of five 60-100m strides. Gradually increase your pace over the distance of the stride so that you hit your workout or race goal pace by the end of it. Walk and shake your legs out for a minute or two between each stride.

Note that the order, distance covered, and duration of each of these exercises isn’t that important. If you’re pressed for time, keep in mind that doing a brief routine is better than no warm-up at all.

How do you warm up before a run?

Written by Jen Matz.