Running warm ups can be controversial. Many runners find they don’t have time to warm up properly, while some are unsure of what they should be doing, and why. A running warm up will help you to get the most out of your run, as well as help to prevent injuries. This article explores the importance of warming up for runners and provides some warm up ideas, including a free 5 minute Pilates running warm up.

Why should you warm up?

Warming up gradually increases your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles you’ll be working during your run. Warm muscles are also more pliable, reducing the risk of strains and sprains, while promoting a greater range of motion. Time spent on a proper warm-up activates synovial fluid production, lubricating joints and reducing friction during movement. Warming up also mentally prepares you for the physical demands of your workout: we’ve all been there where we’ve headed straight out of the front door for a run without warming up, and found those first ten minutes so tough.

Types of warm ups

The type of warm up you do really depends on what you want to get out of your session. The easier your planned run, the easier and shorter the warm up, but if you have the time to spend on a warm up for every run, you really will feel the benefits.

Easy walk or jog

Sometimes, a simple brisk walk or some easy jogging for 5-10 minutes to gradually elevate your heart rate and warm up your muscles is sufficient, if, for example, you’re heading out for an easy run. A walk or light jog gets you in the right frame of mind to enjoy your run too. We would recommend you include this type of warm up before every run to get mind and body ready.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretches mimic running movements, focusing on major muscle groups like hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Leg swings, walking lunges, skipping, butt kicks and marching/high knees are all good examples of dynamic stretches.

We would recommend you warm up first with an easy walk or jog, then incorporate 1-3 dynamic stretches for up to 5 minutes. We don’t recommend you hold stretches for a long time before a run, as you could injure yourself if you’re muscles aren’t fully warmed up, so focus on the movement, and activating each muscle group, rather than stretching.

Joint mobilisation

If you have areas that are prone to tightness, we recommend you perform some exercises that target joint mobility, such as ankles, hips, and shoulders especially. Circular joint movements can be beneficial. Pilates comes in really useful here, with its emphasis on core strength to help your posture while running, flexibility, and controlled movements.

Try our free 5 minute Pilates warm up routine here. You can do this before you head out for your run, as it will also target key muscle groups.

Strides

Many runners get confused about strides. Strides are short 10-20 second accelerations which aim to raise your heartrate, and help your body find the most efficient running form for you, so that you can get the most out of your run. They’re not a sprint, they are more a strong effort where you are conscious of your running form being as efficient as it can be, so think about your posture with these. These are best done at the end of your warm up, just before you start your workout, and you would look to include 4-6 strides with an equal distance recovery jog in between.

Quick and effective 10-15 minute running warm-up routine

Mobilise

Runners Pilates warm up to mobilise joints and activate major muscle groups. You can do this at home just before you head out for your run.

Raise your heartrate and warm up

Brisk walking/jogging (2-5 minutes): begin with a gentle 2-minute brisk walk or light jogging to gradually elevate your heart rate and increase blood flow to the muscles, and get your head in the right space.

Incorporate some dynamic stretches

  • Ankle rolls (30 seconds each direction): lift one foot off the ground and rotate your ankle clockwise for 15 seconds, then anti-clockwise for another 15 seconds. Switch to the other ankle. This helps with ankle mobility and is also great for balance and your core stability.
  • Leg swings (30 seconds): stand next to a support, like a wall or a post, and swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled manner. This will loosen up the hip flexors and hamstrings.
  • Arm circles (30 seconds): extend your arms to the sides and make small circles in both directions for 1 minute. This helps mobilise the shoulder joints and upper body which we also use in running.
  • Walking lunges (30 seconds): take a step forward with your right foot into a lunge position, then push off the front foot to return to the starting position. Alternate legs to engage the quadriceps and hip flexors.
  • Butt kicks (30 seconds): run on the spot, kicking your heels up towards your glutes. This warms up both quadriceps and hamstrings, and begin to raise your heartrate.
  • High knees (30 seconds): while running on the spot, lift your knees as high as possible. This warms up the hip flexors, and activates the core. This will also raise your heartrate.

Finish with some strides (Optional)

  • If you are doing a speed session, or some hill work, you can also incorporate 4-6 strides with equal jog recovery before you begin your workout, just to help raise your heartrate and encourage your body into the most efficient running posture.

You’re now ready to run!

Remember to perform these exercises in a controlled and deliberate manner, paying attention to your body’s response. Adjust the intensity based on your fitness level, and always listen to your body to avoid overexertion.

Incorporating a well-rounded warm-up routine is essential to help you get the most out of your running session, and reduce the risk of injuries. By dedicating time to warm up properly, you can pave the way for a more enjoyable and injury-free running experience.

Join our Get Stronger, Run a Faster 5k course

We give you all the support you need to get stronger and faster, with a running plan and Pilates based exercises, in our Get Stronger, Run a Faster 5k course. Click here to find out more about how to Get Stronger, Run a Faster 5k.