Pre-Run Routine: The Dynamic Warm-Up

As a full time working mom, there are few days that I am not tempted to just run out the door as fast as possible, without a good dynamic warm-up.  As a running coach, I know what this could eventually do to my body, and saving those 7-10 minutes just isn’t worth it.  No matter how little time I have.  And shockingly, I have very little of that in the mornings. 

I know I’m not the only runner who struggles with staying motivated to make time to warm-up before my runs.  Which is why I decided I should share the dynamic warm up that has helped me prevent overuse injuries for over a decade.  It takes so little time, and I’ve found that it really helps me make sure all the important muscles are activated and doing their job.  But before we get into specifics, let’s cover some basics.

Related Post: Time Hacks for Busy Runners

Dynamic Warm-Up vs. Static Stretching

The words “dynamic warm-up” have definitely become more common place in athletic circles.  Way back in gym class, it’s likely you had a coach who encouraged you to do some static stretches before exercise.  Which is actually really terrible advice.  Trying to stretch out cold muscles by holding a pose for a period of time can actually lead to injury, and doesn’t provide any real benefit.  Now we know!

A dynamic warm-up, on the other hand is all about movement.  Easy, low impact movement that help to wake the body up, and let it know we’re going to do some stuff today.  The most effective movements are controlled, and include multiple muscle groups.  Once you’ve got some blood flowing into those sleeping limbs, then you can incorporate some dynamic stretches. 

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The difference between a static and dynamic stretch?  A static stretch is a held position, with the goal of lengthening muscle tissues.  A dynamic stretch on the other hand increases mobility and range of motion through some sort of gentle movement, like side bends.  Dynamic stretches improve your bodies ability to move through space, without being so demanding you risk injury.

Why Warm Up At All?

Because no one likes being injured!  I mean, it’s not quite that simple, but honestly it’s the thing that makes me stop when I want to just run out the door.  Warming up gently eases your body into movement.  And considering how high impact running can be, I’m sure your body appreciates the heads up.  A dynamic warm up will help increase circulation to your muscles, joints, and ligaments, which can be at risk for strain or tearing without the additional blood flow. A good warm up also activates your working muscles, which can help your run feel less effortful (never a bad thing!)

My Quick & Easy Dynamic Warm-Up

  • 5 Squats – Feet shoulder width apart, just the standard up and down.  Make sure to engage the glutes and don’t rush
  • 5 Jumping Squats – Like a regular squat, but with a little jump as you come up.  Helps get the blood flowing more rapidly and encourages the fast twitch fibers to start….twitching.
  • 16 Forward Lunges – Take one large step forward, bend both knees to a 90 degree angle, and then step back to a standing position. 
  • 16 Reverse Lunges – Just like the forward lunges, except taking the initial step backwards.  Be sure to drive forward from your back leg.
  • 10 Side Lunges – With both feet under your hips, take a step to the right, bending your right knee and then driving back to standing with your right leg.  This is one of my favorite exercises to help warm up the hips (and sometimes get a good crack in).
  • 10 Ankle Rolls – Stand on one leg, pull the other leg up, holding at the bent knee and rotate your ankle in one direction 5 times.  Standing on one leg is a great way to engage your single leg mechanics (running is a single leg activity), which giving your ankles some range of motion.
  • 10 Forward Leg Swing – Now that you’ve warmed up your lower half, your ready to swing your legs.  Hold on to a wall or chair and swing back and forth 10 times to help the range of motion in your hips.
  • 10 Side Leg Swing – Once again, brace yourself with a wall or chair and swing a leg in front of you to the left and then right.

Bonus: Speed Workout Warm Up

If you plan on taking on a speed workout, you need to take a little more time to engage the hips and glutes to do their work.  I recommend my clients complete their dynamic warm up, run a mile or two, and then do the following activation exercises.

  • 16 Glute Bridges – Laying on your back, bring your feet towards your glutes, bending your knees.  Press your feet to the ground, and lift your hips, hold for a second or two, then lower and repeat. For extra engagement, try one legged glute bridges.
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  • 20 Standing High Knee Marches – Like high knee drills, but much slower.  Focus on controlled knee drive up.
  • 20 Jumping Lunges – Dynamic lunges with a jump instead of a step, to make sure your glutes understand there will be absolutely no sleeping on the job.

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