• MK

How To Warm Up For A Run

Updated: Apr 17

how to warm up for a run, madelinekopp.com pin

Warming Up For Runners

Warm-up exercises and drills before you run should be a consistent part of your running routine.

Why is warming up so important for runners?

  • Warming up correctly can help you run faster

  • Helps prevent any injuries from happening while you run

  • Strengthens running muscles

  • Reinforces good running form

Learning how to warm up for a run properly is one of the first tips for running beginners that I give.

Basically, without the proper running warm-up routine, you could be limiting your body's performance potential and exposing your muscles to unnecessary harm. So it's important to have a warm up exercises list to pull from to get your body ready for exercise.

Since I get questions about my warm-up routine and training style all the time, in this post I'm going to walk you through some details of my usual warm-up routine before I do a running practice.

Disclaimer: There are literally hundreds of warm-up drills out there and different runners and coaches prioritize different things when it comes to warming up for a track workout or a run. What works for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.

This blog article should not be taken as individualized advice but as general guidelines. If you need a coaching plan, you should hire someone specifically for you. As always, this is my experience and knowledge that I've picked up over many years as an athlete. Read my Disclaimer.

Even so, there are a lot of consistencies in warm-ups across all runners, and this post will cover a lot of them. Let's get into it!

Starting the Warm-Up

Before I get into the nitty-gritty specifics, let's talk about how to start your runner's warm-up.

Starting the warm-up might look different across sports and even across running events or individuals. But in general, it's smart to do a little bit of mobility or dynamic stretches before running.

You can establish a routine of dynamic stretches before running, but you should also allow for a little wiggle room.

For example, I like to shake out and move around the parts of my body that just feel like they need a little extra TLC that day. Some days that's my glutes, other days it's my calves, and so on.

What form does this pre-warm-up usually take?

  • Rolling: If your hips feel tighter than normal today, grab a foam roller and focus on that spot for a few. Grab a lacrosse ball for your feetwhatever you need!

  • General mobility movements: rolling your head from side to side to stretch out the neck and shoulders, reaching up to the sky and down to toes, etc.

Then from here, I would get into dynamic stretches that are great for runners. (see below for ideas) They're so helpful for mobilizing the body before doing any running and activating the right muscles!

So after some rolling and stretching, then I would get into the bulk of my warm-up. It's just nicer on your body to get some blood flowing first and gently warm up your limbs. Especially when it's first thing in the morning!

Only then do I do my warm-up jogwhich is usually just easy running (however far you do is up to you as a runner!) or ins and outs around the track (jog the curves and then pick it up just slightly slower than a full stridebut keeping form-on the straights).

dynamic warm up running

Dynamic Stretches Before Running

Dynamic stretching is one of those running warm-up consistencies that I was talking about.

Regardless of what shape these movements take in a runner's warm-up, there is definitely always some sort of dynamic stretching involved.

Dynamic stretching is characterized by stretches that you only hold for a few seconds at a time, and repeat.

This is in contrast to static stretching, where you sit and hold a stretch for a long time. Static stretching elongates and relaxes muscles, so it should be done after exercise.

Dynamic movements, on the other hand, warm up the muscles and improve speed and agility.

With these stretches, you're activating muscles and improving your joints’ range of motion.

I do some dynamic stretching in my cool down too with a quick rope stretching routine.

Dynamic Stretches For Your Running Warm-up

With so many movements out there, I think the most important thing to do is understand which parts of your body should definitely be given some dynamic attention before you run, and then determine which movements work for you to reach those spots.

While you want your whole body to be ready, the areas I prioritize in my drills are:

  • Hips

  • Glutes

  • Back

  • Major muscles: hamstring, quads

Leg swings are always included in my warm-up regardless of the type of running workout I’m going to be doing.

Tips for doing leg swings:

  • Stabilize yourself with a nearby fence and alternate swinging your legs

  • Increase the range of motion with each swing (start lighter!)

  • Go both laterally and forward. Here's a clip.

  • Rise up on your toes (like a calf raise) while you swing the other leg. This activates more muscles.

I also always do a series of dynamic stretches that target the glutes, hips, and back. It's so crucial to help these areas loosen up and increase their range of motion before running.

Some exercises you can utilize in every warm-up that target these areas are:

  • Cat-Cow

  • Seated Figure Four

  • Cat Cobra

  • Quad Hip Flexor

  • T-Spine Rotation

  • Spider-Man (low lunge rotator)

After these, the core of your body will feel so much more loose and ready to take the force from running! If you're trying to learn how to warm up for a run properly, just adding these simple exercises into your routine will have a major effect on how you feel when you run.

For more details on these movements, I explain most of them in my post about yoga-inspired movements for back pain.

maddie kopp, warming up for a run, stretching

Speed Drills For A Running Warm-Up

After stretching and dynamic mobility, you might go do your warm-up jog (or skips/strides if you're not a jogger) and then think that you're ready to run.

But especially on days where you want to go fast (relative to you and the type of runner you are, of course), speed drills should be added in!

Speed drills are more specific movements that are great for sprint days. Whichever days are your faster paced days is a great place to add these into your warm up.