I suck at warming up. Well, I used to at least. Recently I have gotten better about it due to noticing a huge difference in my run when I do. So, I wanted to share the best dynamic exercises to warm up for running with you all! These don’t take hardly any time and make such a huge improvement on your run PLUS they will help you stay injury-free! Win-win.
Why you should warm-up
The goal of warming up is to prepare us physically for our run (and mentally). Typically you will want to spend 5-10 minute warming up for your run. I like to recommend 5 minutes of dynamic mobility work followed by 5 minutes of walking/very easy running to complete your warm-up. The warm-up should mimic the movements of the activity you are about to perform, hence the running as part of it!
But why should you warm up is the biggest question. Yes, it gets you physically ready…but how/why? When we “warm-up” we are doing exactly that to our muscles, making them warm by increasing blood flow and oxygen to them. Warm muscles are less stiff and able to work more efficiently from the start. The warm-up also activates the nerve signals going to your msucles allowing for faster reaction times.
Here’s another way to look at it. Have you ever gone out on a run and stated that it took you the first mile before you felt like you found your rhythm and your legs felt good? Did you a do a warm-up before that run? My guess is that you didn’t warm-up. If you take just 5 minutes to get some increased blood flowing to your legs you won’t have that “break-in” mile and can get to your paces sooner without increasing your injury risk.
What is a Dynamic Stretch/movement?
A dynamic stretch is when you perform active gentle repetitive movements where you are gradually increasing the range of motion. During a dynamic stretch/movement you always stay within your comfortable range of motion.
What is a Static Stretch?
A static stretch is your “traditional” stretch. You move until slight discomfort is felt and then hold for at least 30 seconds in this position.
Why dynamic vs static for warm-up
I have preached to my in-person patients about dynamic vs static stretching before activity over and over again. The old ways that we did in high school of holding a stretch for 10 counts before a game or practice just don’t cut it. First, a count of 10 is not long enough to hold a static stretch (I’ll cover that at a later time). Second, this does nothing to actually warm up your muscles and research has shown that static stretching can have a negative effect on your training performance.
There are 3 main ways that dynamic moves are superior and recommended for pre-exercise warm-ups.
- Getting more blood and oxygen to your muscles
- Raising your core body temperature
- Helping your joints move more smoothly
Those there 3 things are why a warm-up is so important. I know I’m repeating myself but many injuries can be prevented with a proper warm-up.
The Best Dynamic Exercises to Warm Up for Running
- squat with heel raise
- hip gates
- high knees
- butt kickers
These are my 4 favorite exercises to warm up. Some will include the A and B skips into the warmup and that is fine. They are awesome additions but I usually add those into my “drills” when I do them and am focusing on form!
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Dr. Abby Siler, PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist with 10 years of experience in a variety of settings. She has spent the majority of her time treating athletes in orthopedic clinics and worker’s compensation cases. She is a runner herself for the past 15 years and a lifelong athlete. Dr. Abby loves to teach runners how to stay injury free and out of her clinic.