• Dr Jessica Sammut

3-Step Warm up for Runners

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

I'm a runner. In fact, running is one of my favourite activities to do. It costs nothing but a good pair of runners, and in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne there are loads of leafy green tracks, hills and trails to enjoy.


When it comes to running, I find people fall into three categories:

1. They live for it, absolute love it – and they’re impossible to stop, even when injured!


2. They hate it, but they do it anyway because they know it keeps them fit. Or like myself, because I enjoy triathlons.


3. They hate running… so they never do it – in which case, this probably isn’t relevant for you, so I guess you can stop reading and do something more exciting…


BUT, if you do find yourself getting ready to tick off your new years resolution to PB at parkrun, run a half marathon, or just get the whim to go for a trot - here is a simple 3-step warm up, because chucking on your runners, and exploding like a bull out of a gate, is a recipe for disaster.


1: Walk

Walk with gentle vigour for three to five minutes. Lots of people write off walking. But it’s the ideal low-intensity activity to ease your body out of sitting mode and into workout mode. Not only does walking bring up the temperature of the muscles and the core, but it enhances the blood flow to all the muscles you’ll need for running and sends your brain the message that it’s time to go. The motion of walking also takes the muscles, tendons, and joints through a range of motion that’s similar to what it will go through in running.


2: Add some pick-ups

Do five to six 100-meter pick-ups”, or “intervals”. These flood the muscles with blood, help to recruit your fast-twitch muscle fibres and improve your body transition from walking to running mode. Here’s how to do them:

• Jog at a comfortable pace for at least two minutes—preferably more.

• Gradually accelerate to 65-70% effort over the course of 60 to 100 meters, then slowly decelerate.

• After each stride, walk around and shake out your legs for 90 seconds.

• Then stride back in the opposite direction.

• Strides should not be timed, and the exact distance of each stride is not critical.



3: Dynamic Stretching

Remember back in the day, when you would do this great warm up, feel limber and ready to go, and then stop and touch your toes and hold your ankle to your butt? Yeah, me too, and like that memory, static stretching pre-run is now old-school, and a bit useless. There’s no point warming up, sending blood to the area, and then stopping and cooling down – we save static stretching for afterwards!


Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, uses controlled movements to improve range of motion, loosens up muscles and increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to help you run more efficiently. So instead of stretching one muscle group at a time, you activate a whole muscle chain. So, take your legs into ranges of motion, bending the knees and hips, swinging through, pump your ankles, jump up and down – keep that blood pumping!


To mix things up and make it all a bit more exciting, you can pick and choose a few of these to create a warm-up routine. All of these target muscles used for running. Start slowly, focusing on form, and as the moves get more comfortable, pick up speed. Use small movements for the first few reps, and increase the range of motion as you go.


• Skipping: Try skipping for 25 to 50 meters, gradually increasing the height and range of each skip as you go.

• Sidestep/shuffle: Step to the side, 10 to 20 meters to the right, then 10 to 20 meters to the left. You can do it walking and gradually progressing to a jog. As your muscles start to warm up, you can build the intensity so that you’re trying to cover as much ground as possible with as few steps as possible.

• The Grapevine: Step your right foot to the right, then step your left foot behind your right foot. Keep repeating this for 10 to 20 meters to the right, then repeat the cycle to the left. Keep alternating between right and left. Like the side step/shuffle, you can start by walking, then ramp up the intensity to a jog, trying to move as quickly as possible.

• Backward jogging: Start with 50-meter segments.

• Butt kicks: While standing tall, walk forward with an exaggerated backswing so that your heels come up to your glutes. When this is easy, try it while jogging. Do ten reps on each side. Too easy? Alternate butt kicks with high knees. Do five butt kicks, then do five high-knee steps. The butt kicks stretch the quads and the “high knees” stretch the glutes.

• Hacky-Sack: Lift up your left leg, bending your knee, so it points out. Tap the inside of your left foot with your right-hand while leaning forward. Repeat ten times on each side. This stimulates the balance you’re going to need when you start running.

• Toy soldier: Keeping your back and knees straight, walk forward, lifting your legs straight out in front and flexing your toes. Advance this by adding a skipping motion. Do ten reps on each side.


And now that you’re warm, you’re ready to run! Have fun!

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