A warm up for your run can include five components: core activation, mobility exercises, personalised exercises, running drills, and striding.
In this article, I’ll explain the reasons for this sequence as well as touch on other warm up routines like breathing exercises.
Step 1: Core Activation
The first step is core activation because we want you to utilise your core for the rest of the warm up as well as your run.
Sample exercises include dead bug, bird dog, bear crawl, and lizard crawl.
More importantly, a consideration is that you want to select exercises where you move your limbs while engaging the core, simply because you’ll be doing that when you run.
So while you can make use of static planks, side planks, and bridges as progressions, you ultimately want to move on to things like shoulder taps, runner’s side planks, and marching glute bridges.
The other consideration is that if you only want to do minimal warm up before you run, make sure you prioritise this step, core activation.
For example, my go-to exercises these days are hip car and lateral lunge, simply because it works on my mobility and requires me to engage the core.
It’s also done standing up, which means I can do it while waiting for the lift, sometimes in the lift, and I usually can start running soon after the lift door opens.
Steps 2 & 3: Mobility and Personalised Exercises
Speaking of which, steps two and three are mobility exercises and personalised exercises, which include exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist.
Sometimes, these two groups of exercises overlap, but essentially, in order to keep running injury-free, you’ll need to do a bit such exercises a few times each week.
If you’re already doing it in the gym as part of your strength and conditioning routine, these exercises may not be as much a priority when you’re warming up for your run.
Of course, this varies on a case-to-case basis, depending on what exercises you’re talking about, the run workout type, and what the purpose is.
But to give you an idea of what mobility exercises are, a few common ones will be arm swings and rotations, hip rotations, leg swings and rotations, and ankle rotations.
One thing to note here: if athletic performance is important, a research recommends you to reconsider doing dynamic stretches after a run warm up.
And another research recommends adding dynamic activity post-stretching.
For the latest on the topic, feel free to check out our platform at allwin.co.
We summarise the latest literature into quiz questions, saving you time on keeping up to date.
Step 4: Running Drills
With that, we come to step four – running drills.
This is a natural progression from mobility exercises, eg. the grapevine is a form of hip rotation and thoracic spine rotation that’s more similar to running, lateral skips are a progression of lateral lunges, etc.
The important thing to note here is whether you’re ready for some of these drills.
For example, research has shown that including plyometric exercises in your warm up is beneficial to your running.
However, not everyone can skip clockwise and anti-clockwise on a single leg safely, especially if you’re on the heavier side or you had a knee injury.
So a takeaway here is that drills should be programmed to suit your capabilities, and if you’re not sure if you should try something that seems challenging, it’s always safer to do an easier regression as part of your routine.
This is because you can always work on more complex movements in the gym before integrating them into your run warmup.
Step 5: Striding
Lastly, we have step five, striding.
This is usually done after running drills for you to translate the skills from the drills to your running.
For example, while striding, you might want to focus on staying light on your feet, running tall, keeping your shoulders relaxed, jabbing your elbows back, etc.
Apart from that, striding is a useful way to recruit your fast twitch muscles, which is important not only for run workouts but also if you want to combat the effects of muscle loss that come with ageing.
Ways you can do your strides include going from slow to fast within a 30m to 200m span as well as progressing from 50% to 90% effort across a few sets of 30m to 200m runs.
Make sure you start off easy, especially if you have not done strides in a long time.
If you ever feel a slight muscle pull anywhere, even on the lower-intensity set, make sure you err on the side of caution.
This might mean you need more strength and conditioning, or that your body’s not entirely ready that day. It might hence be wiser not to proceed onto the next set and shorten your run warm up.
Eventually, by listening to your body, you’ll learn how to determine the intensity as you go along.
Customising Your Routine
Before we conclude, just two more things. Firstly, if athletic performance is your goal, you might want to check out a research that found that inspiratory muscle warm-up improves running performance in distance runners, and another research that states that “submaximal specific warm-up should warrant consideration.”
Factoring in these two warm up strategies makes the above routine even more elaborate, so I’ve left them out.
But if you’re looking for improvement, or just want to try something fun, feel free to take your warm up to the next level.
Secondly, a consideration for how long your warm up should be is the type of run you’ll be doing. Now that you know the purpose for each exercise in your warm up, it’s up to you to decide what you want your routine to be.
My personal take is to do a longer warm up for my key sessions, i.e intervals and long run.
This is partly for physical performance purposes and partly to prepare myself mentally.
However, I’m always optimising my own routine, so let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Last but not least, feel free to reach out to my team for physiotherapy or personal training!