How best to warm up before a run? I’ve changed my thinking and actions on this topic over the past few years, away from excessive stretching and toward getting the blood flowing and warming up the muscles. My go-to warm up routine is now core exercises.
Since a strong core is the foundation for any running style or strategy, it makes sense to focus on this on a regular basis. I find it helpful to do some light stretching of my whole body-back, arms and legs, then settle into 5-10 minutes of core work before running. It gets the blood flowing in the body and raises the body temperature just enough to get warmth flowing into the legs. One of my favorites is a bicycle-like action where you lie on your back, hands behind the head and alternatively bring the right elbow up to a bent left knee keeping the right leg is straight, then rotating the left elbow up to a bent right knee with the left leg straight. Alternating the leg and elbow motions provides a constant flow that works the legs and core, allows your breathing to get energized and gets the heart rate moving.
Following this I lie flat on my stomach, arms straight, palms flat on the floor. Alternating sides, I slowly raise my right arm and left leg off the floor, then as I return them to the floor raise the opposite arm and leg. When I’ve done twenty of each side, I bring both hands up behind my head and simultaneously raise my head and chest off the floor while doing the same with the legs, then slowly bring them back before repeating the motion. This gives me a very important back-strengthening exercise that also provides the warm-up benefits of the bicycle exercise.
With all core exercises, the key is to go slow and steady, no jerky or fast motions. Keeping things steady works the entire set of muscles and provides a more complete experience.
Another key for me is to walk the first hundred yards or so of a run, just to get the legs moving properly. No need to worry about giving up distance, you’re still on your feet and moving forward, so it all counts.
Regular work on the core will provide you with a better running experience and get your runs off to a more fluid start.