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How To Warm Up Before Running

Warm-ups for Runners

Warm up before you start running to stimulate the cardiovascular system, decrease injuries and enhance performance. Start with brisk walking, toe and heel walking, strides, backward jogging/running. Dynamic stretches such as front lunges, lateral lunges, hip circles, butt kicks, skipping, and high knees provide a better warm-up than static stretches.

If you are serious about running, you are already aware that a proper warm-up is a must before you start running. Warm-ups stimulate the cardiovascular system, decrease injuries, and enhance performance.

A meta-analysis of high-quality studies on warm-ups has shown that performance improvements can be demonstrated, in as much as 79% of the criterions examined, after completion of adequate warm-up activities, and there is little evidence to suggest that warming-up is detrimental to sports participants.1 

A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport on the importance of warm-ups found that long-distance runners were able to increase their performance when they warmed up with a weighted vest.2

Clearly, while warming up is important, how you warm up is equally important.

Warm-Up Routines For Runners

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Stretching
  • Strides

Dynamic vs Static Stretches

There are two kinds of stretches used as warm-up for runners. They are:

  • Static stretching: It requires holding a specific stretch for an extended period of time, usually about 30 to 40 seconds. For example: Hamstring stretch
  • Dynamic stretching: Here, the stretching is done on the move. For example: Forward lunge

Dynamic stretches are found to be more beneficial than static stretches for warming up. Here’s why:

  • Dynamic stretches prepare the muscles for the activity ahead by activating them. It is important to warm the muscles before an intense physical activity to avoid injuries. This is best achieved through dynamic stretching. Static stretching could lead to the core temperature of the muscles dropping.
  • Dynamic stretching improves range of motion. It lubricates the muscles and the joints and make you more flexible. Flexibility is the best antidote to injuries.
  • Warming up with dynamic stretches will make you more aware of your body and prepare the mind for the activity. This improves the performance automatically. Dynamic stretches challenge your balance and coordination as well. This helps in performance.
  • Dynamic stretching is found to enhance power. Studies have shown increase in the overall athletic performance after dynamic stretching as against no stretching or static stretching.3

Generally, a warm-up to minimize impairments and enhance performance should be composed of a sub-maximal intensity aerobic activity followed by large amplitude dynamic stretching and then completed with sport-specific dynamic activities.4

Go-to Warm-up Routine For Runners

Walk Before You Run

Brisk Walking

Brisk Walk

  • Keep your chin up, eyes gazing five to six meters ahead, back straight and shoulders relaxed
  • Cover about 120 steps per minute

Heel Walk and Toe Walk

Toe Walk Heel Walk

  • Heel Walk: Lift your toes and step forward onto your heel
  • Toe Walk: Rise up on your toes and lift your heel



  • Start with a jog and gradually accelerate
  • Walk with long, decisive steps in one specific direction
  • Then stride back in the opposite direction

Backward Jogging/Running

Backward Running/Jogging

Backward running puts less pressure on your knees. This warm-up is ideal if you have any knee problems. Also, it requires 30 per cent more energy when compared to forward running, which means it can burn more calories.

You can also try jogging backwards.

Dynamic stretches

Front Lunges

Front Lunges

  • Step forward with one leg
  • Lower your hips until both knees are bent at 90-degree angle
  • Make sure your front knee does not extend over your ankle
  • Repeat on both sides

Lateral Lunges

Lateral Lunges

  • Step to the right with your right foot
  • Keep your toes forward and your feet flat
  • Squat down to your right side while keeping your left leg straight
  • Hold this position for a few seconds
  • Push back and repeat on the opposite side

Hip Circles

Hip Circles

  • Stand with your feet apart
  • Keep your hands on your hip
  • Rotate your hip in circles in clockwise and then counterclockwise direction

Butt Kicks

Butt Kicks

  • Walk forward
  • Flex your left knee and the left leg behind you so the heel touches the glute
  • Return that leg to the floor and repeat with the right leg



You can skip for about 50 meters before you run. While you skip, try increasing the height and the range of each skip.

High Knees

High Knees

High knees exercise improves the flexibility and power in the lower limbs.

  • Stand straight looking ahead and arms hanging down by your side
  • Lift your knees as high as possible (to the height of your hips, ideally)
  • Repeat the sequence on the opposite leg

References   [ + ]

1. Fradkin, Andrea J., Tsharni R. Zazryn, and James M. Smoliga. “Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24, no. 1 (2010): 140-148.
2. Barnes, K. R., W. G. Hopkins, M. R. McGuigan, and A. E. Kilding. “Warm-up with a weighted vest improves running performance via leg stiffness and running economy.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 18, no. 1 (2015): 103-108.
3. Fletcher, Iain M., and Ruth Anness. “The acute effects of combined static and dynamic stretch protocols on fifty-meter sprint performance in track-and-field athletes.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 21, no. 3 (2007): 784-787.
4. Behm, David G., and Anis Chaouachi. “A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance.” European journal of applied physiology 111, no. 11 (2011): 2633-2651.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.