Today we’re going to look at a simple pre running warm up routine to help prep the body and mind for a successful outing – at the track, on the trails, or wherever your next adventure takes you.
The running experience can often go one of two ways:
For some, it’s a painful death-march that can’t be over soon enough. For others, it’s a blissful form of moving meditation.
While I can’t promise enlightenment on your next 5k, one thing that I’ve found helps sway the balance towards the latter is a great pre run warm up routine.
Instead of hopping straight from the office chair into your running shoes, if you can dedicate a few minutes to prep the body and mind for the task ahead, it’s much easier to adopt stable positions and efficient running patterns.
The result can be a more comfortable, smooth experience, and for some, even an entry into the ‘flow state’ and an improvement in performance.
So that’s exactly what we’re looking at today:
A selection of pre running warmup exercises designed to get your body in the best possible shape for whatever challenge lies ahead – be it a long zone 2 run, weekday 5-a-side, or a hike on the trails.
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If you’re looking to get the best running warmup in the least amount of time, here are a few factors to consider.
If your hips and mid-back are locked down from sitting for most of the day and you head straight into a pacy run, I can’t imagine you’re going to have a fun time.
What you’ll likely see is that as the miles progress, the lower back destabilizes to pick up the slack from your stiff hips and thoracic, resulting in a degradation in form, and more than likely some aches and pains in the lumbar (and potentially even the knees).
So in our pre-run warm-up, we’re looking to undo some of the mischief caused by everyday life and free up some of the areas that we want to be mobile, but tend towards getting stiff:
Stability goes hand in hand with mobility.
If we look at Gray Cook’s joint-by-joint approach, specific areas of the body ideally tend towards mobility or stability. When there’s harmony between the two states, the body is in balance and all is well.
Problems arise when an area that is ideally stable starts to lose that stability. As we touched on above with our sitting example, the chain starts to break down, we lose some of our structural integrity, and functional movement patterns (like running) become negatively impacted.
Two areas that we’d ideally like to remain stable during our run and everyday life are:
Running is an efficient movement pattern that doesn’t require a whole load of muscular activation if done well (someone tell that to my calves).
But there are still some big movers involved.
Our main focus in the pre running warmup will be on the core and glute complex. We want our deep core musculature and rear ends to be firing and ready to go, which often isn’t the case if we find ourselves sitting a lot.
Some easy glute bridges and dead bugs will take care of that in no time. We’re not looking to go to fatigue – just to give these important muscle groups a metaphorical splash of cold water in the face so they’re awake and ready to go.
Our last little section of the running warmup will be to alter your state.
By that, I mean we’ll look to shift the nervous system towards a more sympathetic tone that’s ready for action. So we’ll get the heart rate and body temperature slightly elevated, and could even begin to touch on enhancing lung capacity and CO2 tolerance.
For this, I encourage you to use some rolling rope movements (sans rope can work okay too). We can also play with some gentle breath holds to increase oxygen availability to the working muscles.
All of this sounds like a lot, but I promise we’ll get it all done in 10-15 minutes.
Let’s get started.
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You can follow along with the running warm up routine in the video above, or refer to the images and notes below.
I recommend spending no more than a few minutes on each exercise – we don’t need to be here all day. Barefoot is ideal to wake up the feet, but minimalist shoes can work fine.
If you find the routine useful, please like the video on YouTube and give it a share with your running or walking friends. It would mean a lot.
And let me know if you have any questions or thought in the comments section, either below or over on YouTube.
I remember first using this sequence in my Hero Warmup routine back in 2015. It involves standing with the weight shifted onto one leg and then take the opposite foot/ankle through three positions:
Repeat on both sides, and we’ll follow this up with some gentle ankle eversion and inversion.
This is a variation on the Y-Balance test used by the guys at FMS. Shift your weight onto one foot and bring the opposite knee up to your chest. This is the start position before each of the following:
We’ll now spend a few minutes on some simple running warmup stretches. Enter a low lunge and play with the following movements:
The next phase of our pre running warmup routine is all about ensuring the big movers are ready to go. Time to hit the floor and switch on the deep core and glutes:
You can do the following drills with a specialist rope like the Octomoves Phoenix, a standard gym rope, or just practice the motion with your hands.
We’re going to go through the underhand motion, which is essentially a figure 8 (or infinity sign) path in front of your body, with both hands together and the pinky learning the way.
With or without the rope, it encourages you to shift your weight from side to side and perform that coiling core motion (side bend and rotate) which we subtly see in your running form. The rope just acts as a feedback mechanism so you can go a little deeper and wake up some of the musculature involved.
Finish things off with a basic breath-hold drill with the intention of increasing CO2 tolerance, Nitric Oxide production, and potentially even improving oxygen availability to the working muscles.
Simply inhale nose through the nose fully, exhale through the nose fully and hold your breath. When you feel a hunger for your breath, inhale through the nose. Your breathing should return to normal within 1-2 breaths – if not, you pushed it a little too much. Repeat for 3-4 rounds and you should be ready to go.
You can start by performing the drill static, then progress onto a few rounds walking, and even onto a slow jogging pace.
It’s a nice way to wake up the respiratory system and ease into the main body of your run.
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