drills

Importance of a Dynamic Warm-up

Bye-bye-bye static stretching, and hello dynamic stretching! If you’ve read a few of my posts then you probably know how I feel about static stretching. Considering it can reduce performance and increase injury risk while presenting few benefits to runners, I’m not a fan – I’ll cover this more in-depth in an injury prevention series coming soon!

So, if you’re not supposed to stretch before a run, then what do you do? Well… it’s simple: a series of dynamic warm-up exercises that prepares your body to run.

Which if you think about it, static stretching doesn’t even accomplish what a good series of warm-up exercises should, like:

  • Increased heart rate and respiration (prepping your body for work)
  • Improved range of motion and lubricates joints
  • Increased capillary activation (fancy way of saying it’s delivering oxygen to your muscles)
  • More elasticity in your tendons and ligaments (reducing chance of tears)
  • Enhanced performance

That last point is what I really want to stress; I mean a simple series of warm-up exercises can help you run faster? Sign me up!

For some research behind this, in 2015 the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research published a study showing that male runners who were well-trained, run faster after a dynamic warm-up

Maybe more importantly, after years of evidence from runners (myself included) who have simply felt better after a dynamic warm-up, I’m a big believer in these types of dynamic warm-up exercises

Which brings me to share my favorite dynamic warm-up with you:

The Dynamic Sole Warm-up

This routine requires no equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

Since the routines in the Easy Injury Prevention for Runners (Coming Soon!) are all plays on the blog name, so is this warm-up.

Most of these exercises are done standing, so if you’re running a muddy trail, or from your car in the rain, just skip the first couple of exercises (Also, Q&A below!)

Below are instructions on how to complete the warm-up exercises in the routine (PDF w/ photos and instructions coming soon!).

#1. Hurdle Mobility:

In a table position – hands under shoulder, knees under hips – lift your leg so that your thigh is parallel to the ground and shin is at a 90-degree angle from your thigh. Make a circular motion with your knee like you’re moving your thigh over a hurdle.

The next movement is exactly the same, except in the opposite direction.

#2. Cross Over:

Lie in a supine position (on your back) with your arms out to your sides and swing your right leg across your torso up to your left hand. The goal is to keep your shoulder and chest as flat against the ground as possible. There will be a good amount of rotation in your torso and hips as you swing your leg toward your hand. Repeat the same movement for the left leg.

#3. Scorpion:

Lie in a prone position (on stomach) with your arms out to your sides and swing your right leg across your back up to your left hand. Keep your shoulders and chest as flat against the ground as possible. Like Cross Over, there will be a good amount of rotation in your torso and hips as you swing your leg over. Repeat the same movement for the left leg.

#4. Squat:

Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and your toes pointing straight ahead. It’s okay if your toes are pointing slightly outward. Sit back with your butt like you’re sitting down in a chair until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Drive your heels down and return to the standing position, ensuring your lower back stays in a neutral position.

#5. Walking Lunge

Step forward with your right leg, flexing the knees and dropping your hips. Descend until your left knee almost touches the ground. Drive your right heel into the ground and push yourself back to a standing position while taking a step forward. Repeat with the opposite leg. Maintain a tall posture, and ensure your knee does not go too far beyond the toes while lunging.

#6. Walking Leg Swings (Zombie Walk)

With your hands straight out in front of you (like a zombie!), swing your right leg up toward your right hand. Keep both knees as straight as possible, and repeat on the opposite side.

#7. High-knee Skips:

Skip forward and drive your right knee up so it’s about parallel to the ground and drive your foot back down to the ground. Alternate each leg. Keep you back ball with an exaggerated arm swing and make sure you don’t slam your feet on the ground.

#8. Side Leg Swings

While standing in front of a wall or pole for suppost, swing your leg parallel to the support so your foot comes up about hip level. Make sure to swing your leg fully extended but not forcefully locked.

Dynamic Warm-up Q&A

To help get you started, I answered some of the most common questions you have asked me regarding dynamic warm-ups, stretching, and when you should do these exercises.

When Should I do This Routine?

This is dynamic warm-up so it’s done before you run, preferably right before running.

If you are traveling somewhere to run (like so many of us do) and won’t be able to get on the ground to do the first couple of exerises, just do the floor exercises at home and the standing exercises when you arrive right before you start running.

How Many Times Per Week Can I do This Routine?

Personally, I consider this an “easy” warm-up routine, so it’s best used before short, easy runs.

For faster workouts, long runs, and other challenging runs (like races), I suggest a more standard warm-up (coming soon!)

Is The Order of Exercises Important?

Absolutely! The sequence goes from general to more specific (floor to standing); simple to complex.

One of The Exercises Causes Pain – What Should I Do?

Skip it. None of these exercises should cause any discomfort, pain (especially sharp or stabbing pain), or hurt in any way.

Ally Gonzales is the founder & editor-in-chief of RunningSoleGirl. Along with blogging she is also juggling attending college and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science with a Sports Management minor.

How to Perform Strides

A top question I get is, “What are strides, why are they important, and how do I do them?” So I thought, I would answer all three of those questions today, because strides are one of the most important drills that should be a part of every runner’s training plan. Here’s a quick answer guide for one of the most essential running drills, and of course an explanation on how to perform strides.

Strides – AKA accelerations – are a staple of just about every high school and university track team. However, the majority of recreational runners never do them despite a long list of benefits. What makes this shocking is that it only takes a couple of minutes to knock out some stride after a run. In turn, this helps improve your training and best of all they can be done anywhere – not just on a track.

What are Strides?

Strides are roughly 100m accelerations where you start at a jog, build to roughly 95% of your max speed, and then gradually slow to a stop. A single stride should take around 20-30 seconds.

To begin, start with four strides and after 3-4 weeks increase to six. Take about 45-90 seconds of walking or standing in between each stride to catch your breath. Running strides is NOT an aerobic workout so don’t rush them – you get ZERO additional benefits by shortening the recovery period! So make sure that you’ve recovered properly before moving on.

Also, keep in mind that strides are very short and you’re only running really fast for a few seconds, so they shouldn’t be too difficult. Remember to stay relaxed during a stride – at no point should you be straining or racing.

Where Should I be Running Strides?

Anywhere! I’ve done them in parking lots (be careful!), sidewalks, roads, fields, and of course on the track. If your yard is big enough you can even do them there.

My favorite way to intelligently use barefoot running in a training plan is to incorporate barefoot strides 1-2 times per week. It’s best to do these on a synthetic turf track where the surface is predictable, plush, and free of debris.

When Should I Run Strides?

There are two situations that they are best used:

#1: After an easy or base run

In this scenario, think of strides like a dynamic stretch. They’re helping to increase your range of motion, increase your turnover, and subtly improving your form. By helping shake out some of the tightness you might feel after miles of running at the same pace, strides can help you feel better for your next run.

#2 Before a workout or race

In this case, strides are preparing your body to run fast. They serve as your transition to sustained, harder running.

In either situation, strides should be run at about the same distance and pace. However, if you’re preparing for a very short, fast race like a mile on the track, you might want to do shorter, faster stride. The opposite holds true as well: if you’re running a half or full marathon, a few longer, slower strides can help you warm up properly.

Why Should I be Running Strides?

Well… there’s a lot of reasons why they should be in your training plan.

  • They help you loosen up after a slow distance run
  • Serve as a transition to faster workouts – especially for beginners learning how to start running
  • Increase your running economy by reinforcing proper form (i.e. they make you more efficient)
  • When done barefoot, they develop foot and lower leg strength with a small risk of injury
  • They prepare you to run fast before a race or hard workout
  • They only take a few minutes

Many runners say they’re able to run faster (with less effort) on their distance runs after adding strides in their training regime after a few weeks. Give them a try for 4 weeks, and let me know how you feel!

Here’s a graph showing you a rough idea of how your effort should look when running strides:

Most of the runners I’ve helped coach tell me that they’ve learned to love strides and they make them feel better. Since they’re short, strides don’t require too much effort and they’re actually easy for most people.

Ally Gonzales is the founder & editor-in-chief of RunningSoleGirl. Along with blogging she is also juggling attending college and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science with a Sports Management minor.

How to Find Your Running Stride

I’m officially announcing/releasing part one of my Love to Run Program. This program is an in-depth program to help you become a better, stronger, and more confident runner the correct way. No cheating your way to success, this is putting in the work it takes to become the runner you want to become. So, naturally, I wanted to talk about how to find your running stride. As this is one of, if not the most important part of running.

Read the Post

Ally Gonzales is the founder & editor-in-chief of RunningSoleGirl. Along with blogging she is also juggling attending college and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science with a Sports Management minor.

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