The 5 minute running warm-up you should do before every run

Author: Kate Sellers

Read Time:   |  July 12, 2022

Warming up can make all the difference to our run performance and enjoyment. We get expert advice on how to make the most of our running warm-up...

We know: the last thing we want to do when we’re heading out for a run is spend time doing a warm-up. But here’s the thing: even 5 minutes of warming up can reduce our risk of injury, increase performance and boost enjoyment of the run.

We get advice from running expert Anna Harding on why and how to make the most of our running warm-up.

Why do runners need to warm up?

There are so many benefits to warming up before you run. Think of your muscles has being a piece of Blu Tack. When you first get it out of the packet, if you pull it, it snaps. But when you roll it in your hands and warm it up a bit, it becomes more stretchy and flexible. A warm-up works in exactly the same way for your body.

What are the benefits of a running warm-up?

  • Increased body and muscle temperature
    Your heart rate will increase slightly, therefore increasing blood flow to the muscles. Your internal core temperature will also rise a bit. This means that more oxygen is able to get to your muscles, because it is more easily released by the haemoglobin molecules that carry it. Your muscles need more oxygen-rich blood to perform as you work harder.
  • Mental preparation
    A warm-up is a great opportunity to get your head in the game. Whether it’s an easy run, a tough session or even a race, giving yourself a bit of time at the start to really focus on what is coming next can help your enjoyment and performance.
  • Reduced risk of injury
    An injury as a runner can be devastating. Warming up improves muscle elasticity and allows for efficient cooling, which means there’s less chance of you overdoing it during your run.

How to do a running warm-up

The first part of your warm-up should look a bit like the activity you’re about to participate in. For runners, that’s going to be a walk, a brisk walk, or a jog – or a progression of all three.

For an easy run, you’re going to start with 5 minutes of walking or jogging. If you’re going for a longer run, this may even be as long as 10-15 minutes. Don’t worry about tiring your muscles out before you even get started. By keeping the intensity low, you’ll get your heart rate up and your muscles ready and raring to go once you get started on your run.

Depending on the type of run you’re doing, there may be other elements to your warm-up that target the specific areas of your body that you’ll be using the most. If you’re doing speed work or intervals, for example, you might want to incorporate extra single-leg drills or movement preparation.

Do I need to stretch before a run?

Dynamic stretching is the second part of a good running warm-up. These are movements that involve a variety of actions to both activate and stretch your muscles. Most experts recommend doing these before a run rather than static stretches.

You don’t need to spend long on this – 5 minutes should be more than enough.

5-minute dynamic stretching sequence

Leg swings

There are a number of different types of leg swing that you can perform, with either straight or bent legs and either forwards or sideways. The most simple is a sideways straight leg swing.

  1. Use a wall or something for support. Stand on one leg.
  2. Swing your non-supporting leg straight across the front of your body and then back out to the side. Be careful not to over-swing your leg.
  3. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.

Side lunges

  1. With both feet facing forwards, take a wide step to the right, bending your right knee.
  2. Send your hips backwards and shift your weight over your right foot, keeping your left leg straight. Keep your chest lifted, your back straight and your core engaged.
  3. Return to standing.
  4. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.

Hamstring sweeps

  1. Stick one leg straight out in front of you with toes pointing up.
  2. Bend your back knee, sitting back with the hips as though you are about to sit on a chair.
  3. Reach both arms down to towards the ground in a slow sweeping motion, then reach forward from heel to toe. Keep moving upwards until you feel a stretch in the back of the outstretched leg.
  4. Repeat 10 times on each side, either alternating or one leg at a time.

Although it’s mostly the legs that bear the brunt of our runs, it’s important to make sure every part of our body is warm. A stiff back or shoulders can have an impact on the movement of your whole body. Here are some upper body dynamic stretches that can help:

Shoulder rolls

  1. Standing in a comfortable position, draw your shoulders up towards your ears and then back down, moving in a backwards direction.
  2. Repeat 10 times, then repeat in a forward direction.

Arm swings

  1. Standing in a comfortable position, start to make some big circles with your arms. These could be forwards, backwards, out to the side – however feels best for your arms and back. Do 10 in a couple of directions.

What about after my run?

It’s just as important to cool down after you run. Just like the warm-up, take a few minutes to do a lower-intensity version of the exercise you’ve just completed. For runners, again that will be walking or jogging.

You should also incorporate some stretching into your cool-down. Try our Expert Guide to Stretching for Recovery.

Written by

Kate Sellers

Kate Sellers

Kate is our Senior Digital Executive and a keen runner. She's also a qualified Personal Trainer and yoga teacher, so she knows her stuff about workouts, cross-training and stretching. She loves to combine running and exploring, so you'll often find her testing out the latest kit in exciting locations across the UK and beyond. Kate champions exercising for enjoyment. "Most of the year, you'll find me running for fun and wellbeing," she says. "That being said, I do still love the thrill of training for a race from time to time!"

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