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Quick-fire warm-up routine for runners and walkers!

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Doing a thorough warm-up routine before you exercise or train has been shown to improve performance and reduce injuries. Most runners and walkers that I know admit to doing only a half-hearted warm-up… if they can be bothered. Quite a few tend to use the first 5 or 10 minutes of their run or walk to warm up, but let me explain why you may want to add in a few more moves.

This warm-up routine is useful for walkers and slow runners.

This article is aimed at regular people who just enjoy going for a run or walk. This warm-up routine will not be enough if you’re doing sprint training or any sport that requires quick movements – check out my previous blog post for more intense warm-up programmes.

In this article:

  • What a warm-up does

  • What you should include in your warm-up

  • I've heard that I should not stretch a cold body

If you prefer to watch rather than read, here's the video of the livestream I did on this topic.

What a warm-up does

In short, it primes the body for movement and by doing this it improves performance and helps to prevent injuries. Especially if you sit for long periods in the day, your joints and muscles become a bit stiffer and the nerves that control your legs and back tend to fall asleep.

Joints don’t have arteries going in to them. They need movement to get fluid in and out and keep themselves well oiled. The nerves switch off because the body is forever saving energy (it thinks we still live in a prehistoric time where it may starve), so it decreases activity in parts of the body that it senses are not currently being used. And finally the muscles get stiff/tight because of the lack of movement and circulation.

Benefits of a warm-up: Reduces injuries and improves performance.

A good warm-up routine lubricates your joints, improves the flexibility and contractibility of your muscles and wakes up the nervous system in a nice controlled way so that it is ready for your exercise. If you go out running without first waking everything up, your body isn’t quite as sharp and able to react as well as it should to uneven ground etc.

The good news is that a basic warm-up routine for walking and running does not have to take ages!

What you should include in your warm-up

I always start my warm-up with some nice dynamic stretch movements. Dynamic stretching is where you take the muscles and joints into their full stretch position but instead of just holding it passively you move in and out of the position.

The benefits of dynamic stretches are that they wake your muscles, joints and nerves up and start to get your heart pumping a bit faster, prepping the whole body for exercise.

My routine that I use is:

1. Standing roll-down with bent knees: This gets my back moving and lengthens my hamstrings. I spend about 10 seconds at the bottom and do about 4 to 6 reps depending on how stiff I feel.

2. Glute bridges: I love these as I can really feel them waking up my glutes and hamstrings. I do about 2 double leg ones where I just hold the position first and then follow that with about 10 single leg ones on each leg. If you can’t lie down on the floor you can skip this one.

3. Deep lunge dips: This is great to open the hips up and get your hip flexors to lengthen while activating the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Make sure that you tilt your pelvis backwards for an even better effect. I do about 10 on each leg and hold the deep position for about 3 gentle bounces. If this does not make sense just check out the video!

4. Heel raises – I tend to do this with my heels over the side of the pavement or a step: They are great for getting the ankle joints moving and walking up the calf muscles. If you find the single leg ones hard work, do them on two legs. You’re not looking to hang for long at the bottom – keep moving up and down. I do a set of 20 double leg ones and then about 10 single leg ones on each leg. How many you do will all depend on your level of strength and fitness.

5. Leg swings forward and backward: This is great for getting the nerves in your legs sliding and lengthening the hamstrings. I do between 10 and 20 swings on each leg.

6. And then I go into a slow jog or start my walk, depending on what I’m doing.

You can consult an experienced sports physio online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan. Follow the link to learn more.

I've heard that I should not stretch a cold body

Yes, but these moves are not meant to be strong stretches. You are meant to ease into them and get further into the range as your muscles and joints warm-up.

In an ideal world I would want you to go for a little jog or walk first, but let’s face it…most of you aren’t going to do that. So the warm-up routine above should be safe as long as you take it easy and ease into it.

Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn or ReasearchGate.


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