How to Warm Up for Your Best Run Yet


An easy run is a common warm-up tool for most exercise sessions, but what happens when a run is your workout? If you’re going for a jog, starting slowly for a few minutes can work fine, but if you’re aiming to pick up more mileage or your pace, prepping for your run can help make your workout more efficient and reduce the chance of getting hurt.

“Anyone doing a hill workout, track session, or race should do a pre-workout warm-up,” says Greg McMillan, exercise physiologist and author of You (Only Faster). And the higher the intensity of your sweat session, the more you need to be warmed up. That also means movement: Static stretches have been shown to slow muscle reactions, and are best saved for after a workout.

McMillan suggests running a short distance—a half mile to a mile—at an easy pace, and then performing dynamic movements to further prime running muscles. “If you are in a hurry, it’s OK to focus only on achy or previously injured areas,” McMillan says.

Try one or all of the following, to help maximize your next run:

For Hamstrings and Hips

Follow physical therapist and ‘Chain Reaction’ rehab series creator Gary Gray’s 3D Dynamic Lunge Matrix:

Front to Rear Lunge: Step forward with your right foot, and lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Step back with your right foot, placing it behind you. Lower your body until your left thigh becomes parallel to the ground. Repeat 4 times with each leg.

Next, perform side lunges, stepping out to the right, lowering down, and then pressing back to start, before stepping to the left. Repeat for 4 reps per side.

Finally, step your right foot back at a 45-degree angle, so it would land at about five-o’clock on a watch face. Slowly sink your body down over your right leg, feeling a stretch in your left hamstring. Return to start and switch sides for 4 reps each.

For Calves

Try these Active Isolated stretches, from Phil Wharton, physical therapist and co-author of The Wharton’s Stretch Book:

Sit with your legs straight in front of you. Wrap a strap or rope around your toes and hold the ends. Pull your toes toward your body using the tibialis anterior—the muscle at your shin—assisting with the strap to get more range of motion. Hold for less than two seconds, releasing before your stretch reflex starts to pull against the muscle and hurt. Repeat 8 times.

Next, bend your knee and pull the toes toward your body with your hands or the strap. You should feel the stretch in the lower part of the calf muscle, toward the Achilles tendon. Repeat 8 times.

Finally, stand and raise your heels off the ground 5 times.

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