Useful Pre-Running Exercises For Performance and Injury Prevention

John Fiore, PT
Sapphire Physical Therapy

Choosing the proper warm-up routine for your daily training runs and race day is a necessary component for both performance and injury prevention.  Often overlooked due to time constraints, our pre-running warm-up sets the stage for the run to follow.  A dynamic warm-up routine for runners targets the key muscles involved in both stabilizing and propelling us forward.

Controversy exists regarding static stretching programs.  Does stretching a muscle in a lengthened position truly prepare us for a dynamic activity such as running?  The answer is probably not.  Does static stretching improve running performance?  The answer is no as several recent studies have concluded (J. Wilson, PhD; Journal of Strength and Conditioning). Is static stretching harmful for runners?  The answer is probably not, provided you are stretching correctly and not over-stretching.  Stretching to address an asymmetry in the body can be an effective treatment in conjunction with addressing muscular strength issues, but static stretching will not make you run faster and farther.

A dynamic warm-up routine for runners will prepare the upper body, the core, quads, hamstrings, gluts, gastroc-soleus, and intrinsic foot musculature for running.  Dynamic warm-up is simple, requires no equipment, can be done on your front porch, outside your office, or at the start line.  The warm-up may look impressive to your friends and may even intimidate your competition at the line, but the philosophy is simple:  Move the joints, wake-up the muscles and the associated connective tissue (fascia, tendons, ligaments) for the orchestra of motion we know as running.

A happy joint is a joint in motion.  Joint range of motion stimulates the release of synovial fluid from the joint capsule (synovium), providing a low friction cartilage surface.  Synovial fluid is the most effective lubricant on the face of the earth, period.  Osteoarthritis in our hips, knees, and spine occurs as a result of trauma or stiffness.  It is logical, therefore, to move your hips, knees, feet, and ankles prior to running to pre-lubricate the joints.

Performance can be enhanced by waking up cold and sleeping muscles.  When we sit at work or drive to the trailhead, our glutes are dormant.  A dynamic warm-up routine wakes up the glutes and prepares them for the extremely important job of stabilizing us, propelling us, and transferring the force of impact associated with running into forward progress.  Your heart rate will begin to increase as well which will make that first mile feel like less of a shock.  Do 10 repetitions of each illustrated exercise.  If you have time, do a second set.  Save your static stretching for the end of the run or in the evening when you can relax.  Give the illustrated dynamic warm-up routine a try for a week and see if you notice a difference.

Happy Trails!
John Fiore, PT (sapphirept.com)

KICK OUTS #1                                                          KICK OUTS #2

TOE JUMPS #1                                                                          TOE JUMPS #2

SIDE HOPS                                                                          LUNGES

BUTT KICKS                                               HIP HUG