Essential warm up routine for runners
How much time do you give your warm up routine before you start running? Be honest! A brisk 5 minute walk, an ‘easy’ first mile or a half hearted attempt at a few stretches because you kind of know you should?
Your warm up routine is an essential part of your running and could be the missing part if you find running hard work. A good routine should help to gently raise your heart rate and prepare your body for the activity ahead. A brisk walk will raise your heart rate but adding in specific dynamic stretches will also activate the muscles you are about to use and help reduce your risk of injury.
Warm ups are important because they prepare you for your activity ahead by telling your body to start to divert more oxygen rich blood to the muscles being worked. The warm up also gives your joints more protection by increasing the synovial fluid and thicken the articular cartilages – these are the body’s shock absorbers and help protect your knees, hips and ankles.
A good warm up will be specific to the activity you are about to do. A brisk walk followed by some key activation exercises is suitable before an easy run but if you are planning to do any speed work, are about to run a 5k or 10k race, or run on a tough route then a more thorough warm up is needed. Spending 10 minutes on a warm up shouldn’t be seen as eating into your running time but as something that will help you run to your full potential.
Here are my top three dynamic activation exercises that I include in my warm ups
When doing squats for your warm up you don’t need to go as far down as the idea is that you are gently warming up the muscles rather than working on muscle strength. Just keep in mind good form, don’t allow your knees to go further than your toes, lead with your bum, keep your core engaged and spine neutral. Also be aware if your knees move inwards. If this happens do shallower squats!
Leg swings are one of my favourite warm up exercises as they activate the muscles in your glutes and hips. An area that is really important for running! There are three variations I use – leg straight back and forth, leg straight crossing over the body and leg ‘cocked’ back and forth. Each of these movements use slightly different muscles so is a really effective warm up. Do 8 repeats of each variation on each leg. And be sure to engage your core and stay nice and tall. You don’t want your torso to be swinging!
High knees are great for a warm up or as a running drill. At it’s most basic high knees is an exaggerated running movement that needs control but will get your muscle memory working. Once you are happy you can do the high knee movement with control, and good posture, you can try moving forward and then increasing the pace.
And there you have my three essential warm up exercises. Tell me what you think in the comments below, I’d love to know your warm up routine.