The Importance of a Good Running Warm Up

 In General, Newsletter, Performance, Racing, Training

A good running warm up can make or break your training session. Why, you ask? Exactly what is the purpose of a good running warm up? A big take away from last weekend’s training camp was the running warm up and a reiteration to pay close attention to it. Here are my three favorite reasons as to why:


Some people are chronically tight and have mobility challenges. You want to be prepared for the workout. Especially, if we are talking about an interval or higher intensity session. The warm up will improve your attention to where your body may have limitations and increase your ability to react to such limitations.  Our sedentary lifestyle is a major challenge for all of us. Hence, 5-minute session of joint mobility as described below can help loosen up tight necks and hips.


The fastest way to get injured is to go from 8 hours of sitting at our office job to running at threshold pace in no time flat or waking up, throwing on clothes and heading out the door (especially in the winter time). An effective warm up will raise your core body temperature and increase the blood flow to your muscles. Therefore, it will prepare you slowly for the hard work ahead. A warmed-up body is more resilient.


The increased body temperature helps lower your body’s resistance to movement. Therefore, your muscles will be more likely to contract faster and stronger.


In many of my workouts, I simply state “warm up for x minutes with easy running, easy jogs, …”, a few times I may state ‘perform dynamic warm up exercises” and I may or may not have had an individual conversation with my athletes about it. Therefore, I will be slowly transforming my workout library to be more specific and help my athletes understand WHY it is THAT important to warm up properly.

Because I want to take the mystery out of ‘easy running’ and/or ‘dynamic warm up’ right away, here are a couple variations that you can follow to be better prepared, especially for high quality sessions.


If you are feeling particularly motivated, start all this off with some joint mobility exercises as mentioned before. This can even be done while you get dressed!

3-5 each: head rotations, head side to side, shoulder rotation forward/backward, windmill/body rotation, hip rotations both directions, forward/backward bend, windmills, hip openers/rotations, leg swings forward/backwards/across, ankle rotations. Watch Coach Shelly in action here and here as she allowed us to film her!  

Follow that with one of these dynamic warm ups:


Matt Dixon’s Dynamic Warm Up (2:20)

5-10 slow calf raises

5-10 fast calf raises

5-10 explosive hop jumps off soles of feet

10 yards walking in straight line, bringing shin towards chest for hip mobility

10 yards walking knee lifts

10 yards walking fire hydrants (outside in)

For balance, I’d like you to add the inside out rotation for 5-10 reps after that as well while standing still. Not shown in this video. Start running with a high cadence drill, feet to butt, before settling into an easy warm up pace. 


The Jay Johnson Myrtle Routine (2:20)

All performed on each side, of course:

10 clam shells

5 lateral leg lifts, toes neutral/out/up (so 15 total)

10 donkey kicks

10 donkey whips (bringing leg lateral/to the side)

10 fire hydrants in quadruped position

10 forward/backward knee circles

10 standing hip rotations forward/backward

10 lateral leg swings

10 linear straight leg swings

10 linear bent knee leg swings

You will feel this one in your glutes. Be sure to focus on a good posture throughout.


Very similar, but a bit easier: The Jay Johnson SAM Routine (4:17)

10s ea straight plank, side planks L/R, straight plank

6x double leg hip bridge

6x clam shells

6x reverse clamshells

6x reverse air clams

6x lateral leg raise: toe in, toe neutral, toe out

8x donkey kicks

8x donkey whips

8x fire hydrants

8x knee circles forward/backward

5x cat-cow stretch

Option D: My personal favorites like heel walks, a sky reach, side bends, forward/backward arm swings, knee hugs, butt kicks and hamstring kick-outs. Some running drills, like grapevines, skips and bounds as you can see in my Running Drills Handout could follow that.

Hope that takes a little bit of the mystery out of my expectations for your running “warm up”!

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