This Pre-Run Ritual Will Transform Your Workout & Keep You Injury-Free
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
Pre-workout warm-ups are something we all tend to skimp on–which, in many cases, can end up costing us. We risk bad form, tight muscles, and serious injury, all because we don't want to spend five to 10 minutes warming up. Crazy, right?
Not only do warm-ups and stretches help us avoid injury, but they also prepare our minds, hearts, and muscles for what we're about to do. Those people at the gym stretching before they get started? Yeah, they're the smart ones.
So why not follow their lead? Try this pre-run ritual, put together by none other than NSCA-certified personal trainer, triathlete, and running coach Corinne Fitzgerald, aka Coach Fitz.
The perfect pre-run ritual, featuring dynamic stretches.
"These are the dynamic stretches I must do before I run," Fitzgerald says. "You should always do dynamic stretches prior to running because they're the ones that promote blood flow!"
"I always start with these because it's a nice way to ease into more difficult stretches."
How to: Start by standing, feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your right knee up and pull it toward your chest, like you're hugging it. Release your right knee, and do the same with the left leg. Do this movement, alternating legs, for 30 seconds.
Trainer's note: "Reach down gently—try not to 'bounce' into the hamstring."
How to: Similar to a typical hamstring stretch, step your right foot forward and flex your foot, like it's a kickstand. While sending your hips back, sweep your arms toward your feet like you're scooping something off the ground. Sweep your arms up over your head, and return them to your side, while stepping your right foot back to meet your left. Repeat with your left foot. Continue to alternate for 30 to 60 seconds, until hamstrings feel warmed up and stretched.
Calf raises and ankle circles
Coach Fitz notes that these are especially important if you're running first thing in the morning.
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, and press up on your toes/balls of your feet as high as you can while still keeping your balance. Lower yourself back down, and repeat for 30 seconds, taking your time.
To do ankle circles: Lift your right leg about 2 inches and draw a circle in the air with your big toe (aka rotating your ankle). Do 10 to 15 clockwise circles, and then several counterclockwise. Repeat on the left side, 10 to 15 circles each direction.
Lunges with rotation
Lunges are a great way to fire up the muscles in your legs needed for running—Coach Fitz adds an upper-body rotation as a way to loosen up your mid-back.
How to: Stand with your feet together, hands on your hips. Step forward with your right leg into a basic lunge, bending your front knee to a 90-degree angle and dropping your back knee. Once in your lunge, twist your upper body to the right. Return to center and step your right foot back to your left. Repeat on the left side, twisting left this time. Do this movement for 30 to 60 seconds, slow and controlled.
We all know squats are great for building strength in your legs, but in this pre-run ritual, Coach Fitz notes that we're using squats to simply activate our muscles.
How to: Start with feet shoulder-width apart, or a little wider if that's more comfortable. Slowly send your butt back, like you're sitting in a chair, making sure your knees do not go past your toes (you want them to be stacked on top of each other). Focus on shifting your weight to your heels. Rise back up, squeezing your glutes at the top. Repeat slowly for 30 seconds.
Butt kicks and high knees
Just a few seconds of each will make all the difference, Coach Fitz says. These also get your heart rate up a little, which gets your ready to run.
How to: Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart, and bring one heel up to your butt (like you're literally kicking it). Bring it back to the ground. Then do the same with your other heel. Start to get faster, alternating heels and finding a bounce in your step. Repeat for 10 to 15 seconds.
To do high knees: Stand straight up, with feet hip-width apart. Pin your elbows to your sides, and stick your hands out in front of you, palms facing down. Drive your right knee up to meet your hand, bring it down, and do the same to the left. Repeat these movements, alternating knees. You want to switch between knees quickly, almost like a hop, and stay on the balls of your feet the whole time. Repeat for 10 to 15 seconds.
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction. A runner, yogi, boxer, and cycling devotee, Bass searches for the hardest workouts in New York (and the best ways to recover from them). She's debunked myths about protein, posture, and the plant-based diet, and has covered everything from the best yoga poses for chronic pain to the future of fitness, recovery, and America's obsession with the Whole30 diet.