Warm Up Exercises to Supercharge Your Run

Despite the desire of many runners to simply lace up their shoes and take off on their run, the truth is that running demands a holistic approach, involving preparation, technique, and recovery for optimal performance. An often neglected aspect of running is stretching and warming up. It's a common confession among runners that they often skip pre-run stretches and warm ups. And while it’s hard to not jump straight into the run, it’s important we take the time to get our body and muscles ready for our run. In particular, dynamic stretches and warm up exercises can help prepare our muscles and joints for the demands of our run while also improving our strength, balance, and range of motion. So, prior to hitting the pavement or trail, let's explore four dynamic pre-run exercises that will help you feel more prepared for your run! These four pre-run exercises are specifically designed to help women runners prevent injury and optimize performance by focusing on key areas of a woman's body that require nurturing and preparation prior to heading out on a run.

Pro Tip! Before diving into dynamic, pre-run stretching, we recommend doing 3-5 minutes of light walking or jogging. Keep it relaxed and effortless (definitely avoid any speed or intensity!).  This preliminary step helps get the blood flowing and loosens our muscles, so they are ready for our pre-run warm up routine. 

Exercise 1: The Standing Ankle Mobilization:

Benefits:  Our ankles absorb significant impact and force during our runs, so it is crucial to loosen them up before hitting the trail. Warming up the ankles before the run helps prevent injury and improves balance and muscle efficiency. If our ankles don’t move properly while we run, then our other muscles have to compensate, which can lead to overuse injuries. But, when our ankles have a full range of motion, other muscles such as our calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes can engage more effectively, which helps enhance overall performance during our run!


Exercise: For this exercise, begin by locating a sturdy surface such as a wall, fence, or car (depending on where you start your run!). Place both hands against the surface and stand with one foot forward on the ground. Next, gently move the front knee towards the surface as far as comfortable, holding for 2-3 seconds before easing off. Repeat that 10 times on one leg, and then switch legs. 

Exercise 2: The Standing Clam:            

Benefits: As women, it is important to have balanced and stable hips and pelvis while we run. Which muscles are in charge of keeping our hips stable and providing balance and power? Our glutes! The standing clam is vital for activating and warming up our hips and glute muscles to create balance between our quads, glutes and pelvic floor. Added bonus, this exercise also helps keep our knees from collapsing inwards while we run, which helps prevent injury and increase efficiency!


Exercise: For this pre-run exercise position yourself with your feet a hip-width apart. Keep both feet flat on the ground throughout this exercise. Rotate both knees outward simultaneously, maintaining the flatness of your feet, then hold the position for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat this motion ten times. Subsequently, maintain your left leg in a stable position while rotating only your right knee outward for ten repetitions. Then, switch, stabilizing your right knee as you rotate your left leg outward for another set of ten repetitions.

Exercise 3: The Backward Lunge to Knee Drive: 

Benefits: It’s not uncommon for women runners to find that their hips are extremely tight after running. Making sure our hip muscles are loose and warmed up before we run will also help loosen these muscles post-run. By combining a backward lunge with a knee drive and hold, we warm up our glutes, quads and hips, which improves single leg hip strength and stability. The reverse lunge is important for increasing our hip’s range of motion, while the knee drive works to increase our muscular endurance. This exercise is also great for enhancing balance and improving core stability.


Exercise: To begin, start with a backward lunge. Then, drive the leg in the backward lunge position forward into a knee drive position, so that you are in a figure 4 stance with the raised knee in the air. Repeat this sequence ten times on each leg. Subsequently, switch sides and perform the exercise ten times on the opposite side.

Exercise 4: The Marching Drill 

Benefits: For the final exercise, we’ll integrate elements from the earlier exercises into a dynamic marching drill. The purpose of this exercise is to warm up our muscles and simulate the proper motor pattern and knee lift that we do when running. This marching drill also works on our landing technique so when we get out there on the trail, we have proper running form for optimal performance!


Exercise: To begin, stand in place and lift your left knee forward, driving it forward (but not too high like a high knee) while simultaneously rising onto the toes of the opposite foot. Then, switch to the other leg and repeat. Perform this sequence 5-6 times in a stationary position. Once comfortable with the stationary version, begin moving forward while maintaining the same motion. When landing, ensure that your feet intersect each other on the ground. This encourages proper foot placement for landing, aiming to have your foot land underneath your body rather than in front of you when running. 

In the whirlwind of our running routines, stretching and warming up often take a backseat, yet the importance cannot be overstated. Incorporating dynamic stretches and warm ups into our pre-run routine not only helps prevent injury, but also sets us up to perform our best on our run! So, lace up, stretch out, and make sure you are your most limber self before hitting the trails - your body will thank you for it!

Looking for more direction on these pre-run exercises? Don’t worry, we have your back! We partnered with Awaken Performance Rehab, Buffalo NY’s Running, Sport, and Spine Physical Therapy Specialists, to develop a quick warm up video so that you are your most prepared self on the trails. While these are four pre-run exercises to help get you started, we always recommend a full warm up prior to running and a full cool down after every run. Don’t currently have a warm up or cool down routine? Check out our resources page for more videos and training plans to incorporate into your running routine!

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