Warm-up act

10 January 2019

Personal trainer Jenny Dixon shares her warm-up routine for beginner runners.

A good warm up routine is vital to prepare yourself for training sessions, both physically and psychologically. The main goals are to gradually increase the heart rate, preparing the aerobic system, improving circulation and increasing body temperature.

Warm ups generally comprise light cardiovascular exercises of gradually increasing intensity, and some dynamic stretches. Gone are the days of standing around doing static stretches as part of a warm up. Scientific evidence has shown this doesn't help prepare the body, and in some cases may actually hinder performance. Instead, dynamic stretches work by taking the joints through their various ranges of motion. This helps to thin out the viscous fluid between our joints, allowing them to move more freely, and gently stretches the muscles through movement.

Here’s a guide to a basic warm up routine to do before running, including some simple dynamic stretches (steps 2-5) that warm up the main joints and muscles used for running. Watch the accompanying video below to see how they're done. Have fun, and happy running!

1. Walking (5-10 mins)

I recommend beginning your warm up routine by walking for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing your speed (intensity). This will get the blood flowing and prepare your body for more vigorous activity.

2. Leg Swings (6-8 on each side)

Leg swings warm up the hips and provide a nice dynamic stretch on the hamstrings and hip flexor muscles. Stand tall on one leg and slowly begin to swing the other leg backwards and forwards, keeping it straight. Start with small swings, and gradually increase the range of motion until you are feeling mild tension (stretch) on the back of the thighs. Try to keep your torso stationary while you swing.

3. Heel kicks (6-8 on each side)

These warm up the knee joints & hamstring muscles, and provide a dynamic stretch on the quadricep muscles. Standing straight and tall, kick your heels back towards your buttocks, one at a time.

4. Round the clock (2-3 on each side)

This exercise warms up the gluteal muscles and muscles in the legs whilst providing a dynamic stretch on the calf muscles. Standing on one leg with a bend in the knee (small single leg squat position), tap the toe of the other foot out in front of you, and keep tapping it round in a semicircle. When your foot is approaching being behind you, start to push the heel of that foot down towards the ground. This is the part that provides the stretch at the back of the lower leg.

5. Ankle rotations (6-8 on each side)

These will warm up the ankle joints and stretch the muscles surrounding the ankles. If you like, you can add an extra level of stretch by pointing the toes towards the floor and then flexing upwards too.

6. Light jogging / strides

Depending on your planned run, I would recommend some very light jogging or strides after your dynamic stretches to continue your warm up before starting your planned session. Bear in mind that in very cold weather your muscles will need a little longer to warm up, so add a few more minutes on.

Jenny Dixon is a personal trainer and running coach at Fit4LIfe  , who is kindly donating her time and expertise to The Lily Foundation.  Look out for Jenny's training tips in the Lily newsletter, Twitter and Facebook. 

Training for a Lily fundraising event is a great way to get fit without paying expensive gym fees! Sign-up is free, and we have places available at some of the UK's most popular runs, rides and obstacle courses. To find out more visit our events page