The purpose of warming up for any run includes preparing you physiologically for the demands of that particular workout, minimizing the risk of injury, and helping with range of motion and running form.
The duration and intensity of your warm-up should vary based on the type of run or race you’re about to perform. The longer the race, the shorter the warm-up. For races that are longer than an hour, conserve energy by warming up with a few short dynamic stretches such as leg swings and a light foam roll. A short, slow jog is also recommended. For shorter distances, get your blood flowing with this warm up, followed by these three drills.
Begin with a quick foam roll. After foam rolling, perform a solid 10 minutes of dynamic movements, such as walking lunges with a twist, high kicks and leg swings—both forward/backward and side-to-side. This will increase range of motion and lengthen the muscles prior to your hard effort.
Follow up your dynamic stretching with an easy, form-focused warm-up. This run should be at least 90 seconds to two minutes slower than your race pace for the 10K or below. You are gradually allowing your muscles to lengthen and prepare for the upcoming effort and strain you are going to place on them.
The final portion of this warm-up includes increasing the intensity just a bit by adding in drills and strides. These drills should include A, B and C skips, which create muscle memory and awareness of foot and leg placement, ultimately leading to more efficient running. View demonstrations of these skips in the gallery below.
The A Skip1 of 5
Lift your knee to waist height while keeping your back leg straight as you come off of your toe. Repeat this motion with the other leg and strike the ground with your mid-foot while swinging your opposite arm in unison with the lead leg. Keep the foot dorsiflexed as you drive the knee up. Walk through this drill slowly at first, and then you can gradually begin to increase to an actual skip. Complete this drill for about 25 meters and then turn it into a run for another 25 meters.
The B Skip2 of 5
This skip is focused on driving the leg toward the ground and preparing it for impact. The B Skip is performed by doing an A Skip, but once your knee reaches ninety degrees and your thigh is parallel to the ground, extend your knee and foot outward slightly. You want to extend the leg out in front of you and claw toward the ground. Similar to the A Skip, perform this drill for about 25 meters and as you increase the speed of the drill, turn it into a run for another 25 meters.
The C Skip3 of 5
This skip concentrates on the heel recovery behind you as you run, and is dominated by the hamstring and great for warming up the backs of your legs. To complete this drill, pull the foot up directly under your buttocks, shortening the arc and length of time so that another stride can begin. This skip should be completed quickly in bursts. Start this drill by alternating legs with one leg staying at a regular heel recovery height while the other is exaggerated. Complete about 10 on each side and then do both. Again, this drill can be done for about 25 meters and turned into a stride. After incorporating the skip drills, several 100-meter strides will complete your warm-up. Strides are not all-out sprints, but more like accelerations over 100 meters. Begin with a jog and slowly build your speed before adding a short recovery. Remember, this all happens within the 100 meters.
Putting it All Together4 of 5
Again, the shorter the race the higher the intensity, requiring a more thorough warm-up. Give yourself plenty of time to really prep your body for the work it's about to do.
Ultimately, don't neglect a proper warm-up for any of your runs or races. And make sure to time your warm-ups so that you aren't waiting around too long after you've finished them or you risk losing the benefits. Good warm-ups lead to great runs!