Our Physiotherapist’s Guide on How To Warm Up Properly Before A Run

Ok, let’s be honest… Do you warm up before your weekly runs? Many of us rush or even skip this part of our session. A pre-run ritual will prepare your body and mind for what is about to come. 

It has been suggested that up to 75% of runners don’t bother with a warmup prior to their running sessions or don’t know how to warm up properly before a run​. At the same time, many people progress their programs too quickly and complain of running-related pain. This can be a recipe for repetitive use injuries. Just think, we all know that warming up is vital for our cars let alone our own bodies, but we still do not put in the extra time and care. Why is this? The goal of a good warm-up is to do just that, increase the blood flow to muscle/body systems that will be used during our activity.  

Many people say they lack the time to fit this into their routine or many people say that they don’t know how to warm up properly before a run. Let’s look at it in this way…brushing your teeth daily isn’t something people get excited about or enjoy, but they still do it because they know it’s good for their health. The same principle goes for our warm-up and cool-down routines. A thorough warm-up ritual will prepare your body and signal to your nervous system what is about to come. Starting activity from a state of rest is never a good idea and may increase the risk of injury while decreasing your performance. In fact, we know that a structured warm-up program can reduce the risk of overuse injuries by up to 50%. 

Below are a few tips for how to warm up properly before a run.

  1.  Be Consistent
    • Not every warmup will be the same, as everyone has their own areas of the body that may need a little bit more attention than others. Create a routine, one that will prepare/signal to your body what is about to come. Warmups can take as little as 10 minutes and as much as 45 minutes (if not more) in some cases.  This will depend on your targeted activity. 
  2. Be specific 
    • Match your warmup for what muscles will be utilized during your activity as well as the intensity of your activity. If you are going for a heavier track workout, log run, or higher intensity intervals you may need a more vigorous warm-up than if you were going for an easy tempo run. Don’t skip out on your warmup. Be consistent and monitor how it affects your performance.
  3. Be Dynamic 
    • Prior to your running session, you want to perform a series of running-specific dynamic mobility drills to prepare your joints and neuromuscular system for the motions of running. Contrary to the changing belief that we should perform static stretching before we run, we in fact want to avoid performing static stretching prior to your run and save that for your cool down to aid in recovery. 

Dynamic exercises to include in a warm-up

  • Walking Marches 4 x 20m 

    • This drill works to encourage good running mechanics that will be used during running. This drill emphasizes knee lift and coordination between legs & arms. 
    • Tip: Point your toes upward(dorsiflexion) as you lift your knees, as this will aid in a more stable initial contact and aid in reaction time off the ground. 
    • Tip: swing your arms freely with your elbows positioned in an approx. 90 deg angle. 
  • Toe walks 2 x 20m 

    • This drill will warm up the muscles of your lower leg, an area that takes the most impact during running. Calf strength is very important!
  • Heel walks 2 x 20m

    • This drill will warm up the muscles of your lower leg, an area that takes the most impact during running.
  • Forward Leg swings 2 x 15 reps

    • This drill will prepare your body for running by increasing the flexibility of your  Hip and posterior leg muscles. 
    • Tip – Use a rail or wall for balance support. Gradually increase Range as you can. 
    • Tip—Feel free to bend your knee during the backswing to get more of a stretch in the front of your hip/thigh.
  • Side Leg swings 2 x 15 reps

    • This drill will improve the flexibility of your hamstrings and hip muscles. 
    • Tip- Use a rail or wall for balance support. Gradually increase the range as you can. 
    • As you swing a leg across the body feel free to bend your knee. 
    • Put weight through the toes of the foot making contact with the ground so you are able to pivot as you swing your leg.
  • Running A’s 2 x 20

    • This running-specific drill will prepare your body for running by emphasizing knee lift, good posture, and coordination of your arms/legs. You can practice changing the cadence of your stride with this drill. 
    • Tip- Try to stay light on your feet and take small steps. Move forward very slowly.
  • Lateral Toe taps 2 x 10

    • This activity-specific exercise will activate some of the main muscle groups used in running, the thigh, and hip musculature. This exercise also aids in controlling the alignment of the knee during movement.  
    • Tip- Try to keep your knee aligned with your index & big toe. 
    • Tip- Contract the muscles in the leg used to tap toe on the ground.


Warm-up drills should not be limited to what is listed above

Are you interested in starting a running program this fall/winter? Do you get pain that is hindering your running progression? Book in with me at Rebound Sport and Spine for your own Run assessment/program.

Shawn Swartz, PT


Book an appointment today with our Physiotherapist