The 10 Minute Warm Up: Everything Runners Need to Know
The running warm up. It is something we are always told to do, but don’t always follow through on. At least, that was the case for me. I find that if I’m just given a set of exercises with no logic or sequence, it is easy to forget things and take up more time. Or, I don’t know when I should be done, so I have this endless prospect of stretching and leg swings, which makes me not want to do any of it. To help others avoid that pitfall, here is a quick, comprehensive warm up routine. It progresses -- from rolling to activation to dynamics; fits in ten minutes; and is broken down by section for easy remembering. Try it, or something like it. You’ll be a happier runner.
Side Note: If you only have a set period of time for running, I would advocate for shortening the time on your feet in order to incorporate some form of a dynamic warmup and cooldown. In my experience, runs are more enjoyable (fewer muscle creaks in the first 10 minutes), I am able to start off faster, so the same amount of miles fits in a shorter period, and, if it prevents injuries, it will mean more running in the long term. That’s a long sentence. There are so many benefits!
Convinced? Okay, let’s go.
10 MINUTE WARM UP
Super speed version...now lets break it down:
0-1 Minute: Set the area (matt, roller, some trigger point device)
1-3 Minutes: Roll
Start with the major muscles, and then radiate out. If stuff isn’t hurting, fine to do two or three passes and then move on. If you find a sticky spot, stay there for a bit, rocking side to side to work out the kink.
- glutes, hamstrings
- right IT, right quad, left quad, left IT (so you’re turning around as you go)
- back (include the lats! get those by raising your arms and rolling along the side)
3-6 Minutes: Specific Prevention
This is the time to pay special attention to areas that always cause problems (Incorporate those PT exercises that we all neglect!). If you are a magical unicorn and never have specific aches, glutes are a good thing to focus on. A general pattern: warm/roll the spot, then do a specific motion that targets that area (“activation”). The book Anatomy for Runners, is a great resource for descriptions of mobility and activation movements. Also, YouTube.
Two examples from my routine:
- Trigger point glute muscles, followed by bridge and straight leg marching (some options for glute activation exercises)
- Manual foot mobilization, followed by big toe stretch, single leg balance, single leg toe raises (get the book, but for reference now, here are three good pages on foot exercises)
(You'll be flying in no time...)
6-10 Minutes: Dynamic Activation
The part where you’re walking around and doing funny movements. I break this into four categories, so it’s easier to remember what to do. These don’t require a ton of space. They can be done in a living room on a cold day or early morning. Descriptions for a lot of the motions can be found on the blog for the Little Wing Dynamic Warmup. Do each activity about 4-5 times per side.
Toy Soldier (Think of marching like a soldier… good posture and eyes straight ahead. Now, just pull up your knee or foot in different positions, maintaining that strong, tall core)
- knee to chest, foot to butt, knee to side, foot to opposite hip (glute stretch)
- find tutorials here and here
- Front, side, back, warrior
- Jay Johnson has a comprehensive video on form. Only difference is I move forward while doing these (unless super tight on space)
Hands and Knees
- sweep the ground (video here… I do my arms in a sweeping motion), spiderman, bear crawl (on the Little Wing blog)
- upper body rotation (walk, and exaggerate the twist in your upper body. movement should come from your core)
- skip with arm swing (start small with skips and get bigger, circle arms forward, back, alternating)
- running man (seriously. it’s good activation. focus on glute as the main driver of your straight leg as you push it back.)
- side shuffle, karaoke
Finally: THE MOST IMPORTANT RUNNER MOVEMENT
- Single leg RDL - the benchmark for balance and strength. If you are wobbly or your hips aren’t level, start by holding on to something until you do build up the balance.
- Now shake it out, do some leg swings, get excited…it’s time for the fun part.
Good luck! Tweet me with questions @fastk8 if they arise.
Check out another runner favorite: How to Get Faster and Stronger While Not Running.