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In my day (wow, that makes me sound really old!), static stretching was considered the best way to warm up. But experts finally figured out that dynamic warm up exercises are far better. In fact, some studies have demonstrated that static stretching before racing, for example, can be a notable detriment to performance. While much is now known about it, doctors and exercise physiologists are continually working on pinpointing the precise reasons why it works better.
Why Ask Why?
To be honest, I don’t really care that much about the “why” but simply that it does work better. I first saw widespread use of dynamic warmups for running when I started coaching at the high school level a couple years ago. I noticed that “all the cool kids were doing it.” So I started using the dynamic warmups that the team was doing before my own running, which is often with the team. Not only was the change in my own running dramatic, I felt so much better I couldn’t believe it.
Before I started doing these exercises that, to be fair, look a little funny to some people, I had slowed to around 8:30 a mile for a typical 5- or 6-mile run. That kind of pace is still pretty good for a 50-year-old like myself. Now, without doing anything substantially different in my training except for the warmups, it feels completely natural to run 6 miles at a 7:30 pace. More importantly, the usual mild stiffness and soreness I sometimes felt in my legs and back are almost completely non-existent. The warmups I do feel so good, that I will sometimes do them even if I’m not getting ready to head out for a run!
Example Dynamic Warm Ups:
Leg swings: Stand facing a wall or post with one hand on it to support yourself. Swing one leg back and forth several times, then do the other. Then turn to your left (so the wall or post is on your right) and swing your right leg front to back several times. Turn around the other way and swing your left leg.
Skips: Do a slow-ish skip for about 20-30 yards, bringing each leg up to about waist level or a little higher each step. Some skipping advocates will advise doing an exaggerated skipping motion, jumping up in the air with each step. I like the more reserved motion.
Skip-kicks: Similar to the skip, but extend each leg out in front of you after bringing that knee up to your waist, then snap it down into place. I don’t do the snapping part too well yet (according to my son!), but I’m working on it. I promise!
Laterals: This is kind of just sashaying sideways for about 20-30 yards, putting your arms up and down as you go. Do both directions.
Cariocas, or, as our student-athletes call them, Karaokes: This sideways motion where you cross your steps on the front and the back is also sometimes called a grapevine step, but when you bring your leg across in front, bring your knee up high to get some really nice rotation on that hip. My back feels GREAT after I do this one.
Just click on the name of each exercise to view a video tutorial on the Be The Runner Facebook page!
What are your favorite Dynamic Warm Up Exercises?
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