A Better Warm-up for Runners

A Better Warm-up for Runners

Scott Quill


Have you ever thought of running as jumping and landing hundreds or thousands of times in a single workout, oftentimes while moving at top speed? When you think of it this way, touching your toes and just starting out slow hardly seems like a sufficient warm-up for this dynamic activity.

"You'll increase your core body temperature, elongate muscles, and activate key areas for running," says Craig Friedman, director of methodology for Athletes' Performance.

This series of movements also benefits your body on a neurological level, Friedman says. It opens the pathways your brain uses to send messages to your muscles and also helps ingrain proper movement patterns.

Simply put, this makes you a more efficient runner. Not convinced? Here are four more ways movement prep will make you a better runner:

1. It helps balance your body

Every time your foot hits the ground, your body has to rebalance itself. Training your balance dynamically with movement prep will prepare you to do this.

2. It improves flexibility

You'll develop new ranges of motion by actively elongating and contracting muscles. Initially, this gets rid of stiffness. Stay consistent with your movement prep routine and you'll maintain your newfound flexibility better.

3. It creates symmetry in your stride

Either a lack of mobility or stability in your body can lead to an asymmetrical stride length where one limb is compensating for another. This typically leads to decreased performance, pain or injury. Movement prep helps clear up these asymmetries.

4. It boosts power, strength and endurance

You'll move more efficiently, which means you'll cover more distance with the same amount of effort and energy, and you can push off the ground with more power in every stride.

Sample warm-up (seven minutes)

You can loosen and prepare your full body for activity in under 10 minutes. Key areas for runners include the hip flexors, calves, glutes and hamstrings. Try this sample 7-minute routine to get started. Perform 4-6 repetitions for each of the movements below. (To see animated examples, check out the Library.)

1. Standing Pec Stretch

Directions: Stand in a doorway or next to a fixed object. Raise one arm and bend it 90 degrees so your upper arm is parallel with the floor and your forearm is pointing straight up to the ceiling. Place your forearm on the doorframe or object, then lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 1-2 seconds, relax, and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

2. Leg Cradle

Directions: Start standing, then squat back and down a few inches. Lift your right knee to your chest, placing your right hand under the knee and your left hand under your ankle. Gently pull your right leg toward your chest while extending your left leg and contracting the left glute. Alternate with the other leg and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

3. Inverted Hamstring Stretch

Directions: Stand on your right leg with your knee slightly bent and your arms out to the sides with your shoulder blades together. Hinge forward at your right hip with your left leg straight back behind you and your right knee remaining slightly bent. Keep your back in a neutral position throughout the movement and try to keep your left hip from rotating to the sky. When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes on your right side, return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps with each leg.

4. Forward Lunge, Elbow to Instep (crawling)

Directions: From a standing position, step forward into a lunge with your right leg forward. Place your left hand on the floor and your right elbow to the inside of your right foot. Your back leg should be straight. Hold the stretch for two seconds, then place your right hand outside of your right foot and push your hips to the sky. Hold again for two seconds. Drop your hips and crawl into the next repetition with the other leg. Continue for the prescribed number of repetitions.

5. Knee Hug (in place)

Directions: From a standing position, squat down a few inches and grab below your right knee with your hands. Keeping your chest up, pull your right knee toward your chest while contracting your left glute. Repeat with your other leg. Continue the movement for the prescribed number of repetitions.


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