A Better Pre-Run Warm-Up: 5 Moves in 20 Minutes


The Lunge Matrix that I teach is rooted in physical therapist Gary Gray's work. We simply want to see you perform five different lunges, working up to five repetitions on each leg—so a total of 50 lunges. This takes just over three minutes once you've learned it. I've been doing this with athletes of all ages and abilities for several years, and not only have I seen the rate of injuries decrease, but I've also had coaches who use the Lunge Matrix tell me they've seen the same. I assign this as the very first thing you do when you get to the track or the trailhead. Before you take a running step, you do the Lunge Matrix.

Will you be sore? Sure. The first week or so of doing this every day you will have a bit of quad soreness, but it will soon go away in week two or three. After a couple months of doing the Lunge Matrix before every workout, you'll find that you don't feel ready to run if you haven't done the 50 lunges. Both my online clients and the runners I coach at Athletics Boulder now trust the Lunge Matrix as something to be done not only before workouts, but also before every run.

More: How to Ease Muscle Soreness

Warm-Up Move #2: Leg Swings

The next thing to do—and something that will take just 90 seconds—is leg swings. These exercises focus on the hip joints, which obviously have a crucial role in running. Mobile, stable hips are important if you're going to stay injury-free. Many of you have seen these, but if not, check out the Myrtl routine, which is a general strength and mobility routine I wrote; at the end of the video, you'll see the demonstrator doing leg swings.

More: 3 Back and Hip Exercises for Runners

As with the Lunge Matrix, there are five different leg swings: 

  • linear leg swings with straight leg (eight reps)
  • lateral leg swings (eight reps)
  • hurdle trail leg forward (5 reps)
  • hurdle trail leg backwards (5 reps)
  • linear leg swings with a bent knee (5 reps)

This is great mobility work for the hip joints. Again, athletes feel much better after they do this, especially if they've been sitting all day at work or they've been sitting in a car. You can do this after the Lunge Matrix, but make sure to do it before you head out. The Lunge Matrix and the leg swings take less than five minutes, so you'd have a hard time convincing me that you don't have time for this work.

Warm-Up Move #3: The Jog

It's at this point where my view of the proper warm-up may vary from others. While I definitely agree that you need to go for a run/jog before you start your workout, I don't think there is anything magical about 15 or 20 minutes or running/jogging as the warm-up. I ask my athletes to run 10 minutes, and then go into a series of skipping exercises—sometimes called a dynamic warm-up. This prepares them from head to toe to run a hard workout. 

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