Skip to main content

Warm up exercises for running: the safe way to ready your body for a fun, satisfying run

warm up exercises
What are the best warm up exercises for runners? (Image credit: Getty Images)

It is always a good idea to follow a good warm-up routine before going for a run, just as it is important to cool down properly afterwards. The aim with warm up exercises for running is to warm up muscles, joints and respiratory system so that you avoid running injuries.

It is probably rather obvious to report that runners who set out at speed from cold (even on a summer’s day) will be more prone to aches and pains. The body requires a gentle warm up before you step up the pace. So, instead of simply strapping on your running shoes, hydration pack, and setting off at a sprint, here's what to do...

Walk and jog before you run

One of the best warm up exercises for running is to start with a gentle walk. After a few minutes, you can build up the walk to a faster pace. Give that five minutes and then break into a gentle jog.

Again, you can jog for around five minutes, before you will then be able to speed up a little. Allowing your muscles to get used to the exercise and for the blood to flow, especially if you have been sat all day at a desk, will help to prevent tears, niggles and cramps.

lunges

Lunges are a good way to warm up muscles for running (Image credit: Getty Images)

warm up exercises

A squat is a good dynamic exercise for runners (Image credit: Getty Images)

Great dynamic exercises for runners

For decades, runners were told to stretch muscles as the best warm up exercise. This entailed doing standing stretches, such as calf, hamstring and glute stretches. 

Although the advice was to do these stretches more gently than you might after a run, it was still a stretch of a cold muscle.

These days, the modern advice is to do a series of dynamic stretches, such as lunges, calf raises and squats, to warm up muscles.

Dynamic exercises move your muscles and joints through a large range of motion. These stretches involve continuous movement, which prepares your body for activity, and improves blood flow to the muscles.

Aim to start with gentle dynamic exercises, perhaps five of each and a short, gentle jog in between. You could follow this routine:

5 x Walking High Knees

5 x Arm Circles (each side)

5 x Side Shuffles (each side)

5 x  Lunges (each side)

5 x Squats

5 x Jumping Jacks.

warm up exercise

Side steps can be used before and after a run  (Image credit: Getty Images)

The best plyometrics exercises for warm ups

Stepping up the warm up session for runners, it is a good idea to add in some plyometrics exercises. These involve a jumping or explosive movement. For example, you could include skipping, bounding, hopping, more explosive lunges and jump squats.

It is vital that you have warmed up with dynamic exercises first and you are sure your muscles and joints can cope with a few gentle plyometric exercises. 

It is possible to make the plyometric exercises are bit more robust and tougher half-way through a run, or after a run.

Warm up exercises for running will help you to avoid many common injuries and niggles. While it might add extra time to your training session, most runners will tell you there are long-term benefits.

Fiona Russell

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.