Although a thorough warm-up may add time to your workout, it is an important part of your routine and should not be skipped or skimped upon. Runners who do not adequately warm up prior to training are at greater risk of injury and poor performance. Ann Alayanak, a coach from the University of Dayton who earned seventh place at the U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 2008 says, “A proper warm-up increases heart rate, breathing rate, and blood flow to the muscles. It prepares the body for increasingly vigorous activity, allows it to work more efficiently and reduces injury risk by loosening you up.”
Following are some recommendations from the American Running Association for the best warm-up exercises to prepare you for running, whether you are only a casual runner or are training for the Olympics:
- Keeping your legs slightly bent, jump rope for a few minutes, landing on the balls of your feet and flexing your ankles to push off the ground.
- Starting with your knees bent at about 30 degrees, slowly lower yourself into a half-squat, and slowly rise up again. Repeat 5 times.
- With your knees flexed about 45 degrees, hop approximately three feet from side to side, keeping your knees flexed and landing as lightly as possible.
- Stand on a surface that is slanted upwards, rise up onto the balls of your feet and hold the position for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
- Walk or sprint up and down a set of stairs. If stairs are not readily available, you can use a box for stepping up and down.
- Put your hand on a chair (or a wall) next to you for balance and raise one leg while simultaneously bending the opposite knee until you are in a half-squat on one leg. Repeat with the opposite leg, then do another 15 to 20 reps.
- While leaning with your back to a wall, with your feet approximately a foot away from it, lift your toes and the balls of your feet as high as you can, pivoting from the ankle. Lower your toes near the floor, without touching it, then lift them again. After repeating this 15 to 20 times, rest for 20 seconds, and do another set.
- Do 10 sets of lunges, alternating legs each time. Try to keep your knee from bending more than 90 degrees, keeping the knee positioned directly above your heel. The leg behind you should be slightly bent.
- Starting with your knees slightly bent, dip down then jump up as high as possible, coming down with your knees bent, and immediately jumping up again. Continue jumping up and down like this 10 times, then rest for about 30 seconds and repeat the set once or twice more.