My go-to list of active run stretches is:
- Side lying leg lifts
- Zombie walks
- Sidways leg swings
- Walking lunge
- High knees and butt kicks
Going straight from your bed, sitting at your desk or sitting on the metro and then jumping right into a run can be really hard on your body. It’s important to take 5-10 minutes to warm up your body and prepare for a run. There are definitely good warm ups and not so good warm ups. It is key to make your warm up more dynamic and active rather than holding a series of static stretches. I like to use my dynamic warm ups to increase my heart rate, loosen up my muscles by providing an active stretch and to engage specific muscles such as my glutes and core stabilizers. I also like to use my warm up to take some time and mentally prepare for my workout. All of this is done in effort to prevent injury so I can keep running!
A 2015 study from the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research suggests that performing a dynamic warm up before running improves performance. There are many ways and exercises to use as a dynamic warm up but here are my favorites:
- Glute warm-up: bridges: I usually start with waking up my glutes to prime them to help during my workouts because they can be a lazy muscle group for me. Increasing glute engagement during runs can help with hip stability and preventing injuries down the chain. I usually do a round of 30 bridges on the floor followed by 3 sets of leg raises on my side. I like to do three rounds of side lying hip abduction with flexion (leg forward) and internal rotation (toe pointed down) to fatigue. For example, my first round I can complete 25 reps, second round 15 reps and last round I can only do 10 reps.
- Glute warm-up: side lying leg lifts: Side lying leg lifts are great for stretching and hip flexor activation. I like to do three rounds of side lying hip abduction with flexion (leg forward) and internal rotation (toe pointed down) to fatigue. For example, my first round I can complete 25 reps, second round 15 reps and last round I can only do 10 reps. To do this exercise correctly can be challenging to any athlete by keeping the stationary leg at a 90 degree angle and the foot on the mobile leg pointed at the ground.
- Inchworms: Start in a standing position with knees straight and reach down to the floor and walk your hands forward while trying to keep your hands down until you are in a plank position. Then keeping your hands stationary, inch your toes towards your hands while trying to keep your heels down. Repeat 5-10 times. This one is a good dynamic posterior chain stretch.
- Zombie walks: Start standing with arms out in front of you at 90 degrees and alternate swinging a straight leg up towards your hands. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
- Teapot: Start standing and stand on one leg, keep both legs straight and reach towards the ground while hinging at the hips and repeat with other leg and arm. Repeat 10 times on each leg. This one is also a good hamstring stretch and balance exercise.
- Sideways leg swings: Start standing while holding onto stationary object for support like a light pole or tree, swing leg out to the side and back in across your body 10-15 times. Repeat on other leg.
- Walking lunge with a twist: Start in a standing position and take a big step forward, drop back knee down towards the ground into a lunge. Both knees should be at 90-degree angles. While in a lunge position, twist your upper body both ways. Repeat 15 times.
- High knees & Butt kicks: Perform a light jog by trying to get knees up as high as you can and then try to kick your butt with your feet, I like to do these last to get my heart rate up a little before I go.
I’ve found this series of exercises to be the most helpful for improving range of motion, engaging my “lazier” muscle groups, increasing heart rate and of course, preventing injury! After my runs is when I will focus on foam rolling and more static stretching. Come in and see a Rose Physical Therapist to come up with the best running warm-up and cool-down for you!