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Are you a runner who sits all day? Do this quick warm-up before running.

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Are you one of those runners who sit for large parts of your day and then use the first mile of your run as a “warm-up”? I know, we’ve all been guilty of it and you may even have been getting away with doing this for several years. The problem is that you're really putting yourself at risk of injury and what you can get away with when you’re younger unfortunately changes as the years tick on (uhgg!).

This quick warm-up is perfect for runners who sit a lot during the day.

In this article:

  • Why doing a slow run as your only warm-up is not good enough.

  • A quick-fire warm-up routine for running.

  • Download warm-up programme as PDF.

Why doing a slow run as your only warm-up is not good enough.

Some of the highlights of what happens when you sit for long periods are:

1. Your muscles go to sleep

If you sit for long periods of the day, you effectively decrease the blood flow to the muscles in your bottom (the glutes), back of your thighs (hamstrings) and calves. The direct pressure on the glutes and hamstrings switches them off even further.

Logic tends to make one think that these muscles should wake up as soon as you do a slow jog, but that is not necessarily the case. You can still run even if some muscles are half asleep and not working properly.

The brain is forever trying to conserve energy, so if you don’t tell it specifically that you now want to use these muscles groups, your brain will keep them on low power and other muscles or tendons will have to pick up the slack. This can lead to all sorts of overuse injuries including plantar fasciitis, Achilles injuries, calf strains etc.

2. Your hips and back gets stiff

The muscles at the front your hips (the hip flexors) shorten during the day as you keep your hips in a flexed position while sitting and most people also report their lower backs stiffening up due to the lack of movement. As a result your hips and lower back aren’t able to move as freely as they should – predisposing them to injury if you start running without warming up first. I've previously written a more detailed post about the negative effect sitting has on your hips.

A quick-fire warm-up routine for running

Disclaimer: This warm-up routine is not good enough if you are about to embark on fast running drills or high intensity workouts. It is the minimum you should do if you just want to go for an easy run.

1. Roll-down

This exercise is great to get the whole spine moving before you go for your run. You’ll really feel the tension leave your upper back if you allow your arms to dangle freely.

Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your knees slightly bent. Tuck your chin into a double-chin and then take it all the way onto your chest. Now curl your spine down, starting from the top until you’re hanging from your hips.

Don’t stretch your arms down to the floor – rather allow them to just hang loosely from their sockets as you bend forward. While in this position, wiggle your bottom a few times from side to side and feel you neck and spine relax.

Spend about 10 seconds in this position. Then reverse the movement by pulling in your stomach muscles in and gently curling back up from the lower back to your neck until you’re upright. Hold the position for about 10 seconds. Do 3 repetitions.

2. Lunge dips followed by lunge walks

This combination is a multi-tasker in that it gives you the hip flexibility that you need for running while waking up the hamstrings, gluteal muscles and quads.

2.1 Give a big step forward and go into a lunge position. Make sure that you tilt your pelvis back so that you can feel a stretch along the front of the thigh (quad/hip flexors) of the leg placed at the back. Now dip deeper into the lunge.

Do about 10 dips with your one leg in the front. Then switch legs and do 10 dips with the other leg at the front.

2.2 Follow this up with lunge walking for 10 steps. Give a big step forward and then sink deep into the lunge. Rise up again and give a big step forward with your other leg.

Once you’ve done 10 steps, do one more set of both the lunge dips and lunge walks.

3. Heel lifts

Waking up the calves before you go running is very important as they are meant to absorb a significant amount of force while running.

It works best if you can stand on the side of a pavement or somewhere where your heel can freely drop an inch below your toes. Stand on one leg and hold onto something to help you balance. Raise up as high as you can onto your toes and then slowly drop down until your heel is below the level of your toes. Don’t hang there for ages. Immediately rise back up onto your toes.

Do 10 repetitions before you switch to the other leg. Do 2 sets on each leg for a total of 20 reps.

Download Warm-Up Before Running PDF

Go to download page

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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