What is the best way to warm up before running?

Running stretching beside the road and blog title

A great topic for new and experienced runners. When I ask clients what their running warm-up routine is most of them reply with, ‘I know I should probably stretch more’. One of the first blog posts I wrote talked about static stretching and it’s inability to reduce injury risk. The evidence shows no improvement in running economy, performance or recovery when it comes to static stretching. So how should runners warm up?

Who should be stretching?

If you can imagine a U-shaped graph depicting the stiffest runners on the left and mobile runners to the right 90% of runners will fit in the middle. The majority of runners who fit in this 90% do not need to focus on static stretches because they already have enough mobility required for running. For those at the for left, their joints are so stiff that it starts to effect their bio-mechanics and may benefit from static stretches.

runner stretching legs on a fence

So, what should most of us do? Running warm-ups are designed to prepare the body for what lies ahead. This includes increasing your bodies temperature, increasing your heart-rate, prepare your joints for movement and prepare the soft tissues for the bounding ahead. To achieve these aims we can:

  • Jog on the spot 1-2 mins
  • Perform light leg swings 1 min
  • Butt flicks and high knees 20 reps each
  • Starting at a slower speed and building up to your desired pace

This is what research and physiological effects can tell us, however we know that stretching can make some runners feel great! Some even swear by their stretching routine to help their running performance and running efficiency. In no way is stretching detrimental to running and it is worth trying a whole bunch of different stretching routines to see what best suits you. Maybe it consists of various hips stretches for 10 minutes, perhaps a quick 2 minute pick-me-up, or none at all.

If I run first thing in the morning and feel a bit stiff, I will do a quick 5-10 seconds of static stretches, focusing on hip extension. The faster I plan to run, the more I focus on a warm-up. If I plan my slow runs, I just run. I hope you have found this useful.

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