It was a typical Tuesday. For me, that meant waking up at around 5 am, walking downstairs in a fog, pouring a big cup of cold brew coffee, and writing for about 30 minutes as I watched the sunrise out the window.
Then, my 30 minutes of bliss were over, and it was time to get a couple hours of work done before tackling my next task — my 8 am run. I don’t know about you, but even a couple hours of sitting around tends to make my whole body feel stiff.
So, when it was time to head out the door, I got up out of my desk chair, laced up my shoes, and winced as I took my first steps. This sensation occurs every single time I decide to roll out of bed or get up from my seat and go straight into exercising.
And on this day, for the first couple miles until my body loosened up, I felt like the tin man in need of a good oiling.
I’m sure you can relate. Fortunately, there’s a way we can prevent this feeling from occurring during our runs, and actually enjoy those first few miles rather than dread them. In fact, by using this one simple trick, you will also be able to perform better on workout days. Here it is.
It’s called the dynamic warm-up.
A dynamic warm-up is essentially a series of dynamic stretches that you do just before starting your run. The warm-up will help you stretch your muscles and joints before exercising so that you don’t have that stiff feeling. But, it’s also important for a number of other reasons.
First, it helps prevent injury.
When you perform a dynamic warm-up your body and muscle temperatures increase, which in turn creates better blood flow and oxygen flow throughout your body. This means it will be better prepared for an intense effort, and you’ll be less likely to pull something.
When I was in college, my team started every practice off with a dynamic warm-up. Each day, my coach led us through the exercises. At first, I was annoyed. I just wanted to get my run done, and the warm-up seemed like a waste of time.
But, I quickly realized how much worse off I was without it.
I had to run on my own one day directly after an exam, so I skipped the warm-up. I immediately regretted doing so because I was incredibly stiff and couldn’t get into a rhythm until a couple miles in. After that, I appreciated the fact that my coach forced us to do it together each day.
Next, it improves athletic performance.
A short five to ten minute dynamic warm-up is all it takes to make sure your entire body is ready to go for your run. It is especially important on hard workout days because it gets your blood and oxygen flowing and your heart rate up. So, it won’t be as much of a shock to the system once you start running a hard effort.
My freshman year of college, on the day I ran my best cross-country race of the season, I actually did a dynamic warm-up twice.
It was a cold and windy day, and my teammates and I were trying to find ways to stay warm. So, we went through our routine a couple times before we raced. I fully believe that keeping my body warm helped me run to my best abilities that day.
This is how to implement a dynamic warm-up.
In order to reap the benefits that a dynamic warm-up has to offer, you have to know what exercises to perform, and you have to do them correctly. The following routine is the one I did before every run, workout, and race as a division I collegiate runner:
- 10 bunny hops side to side
- 10 jumping jacks
- 5 air squats
- 10 lunges (5 each side)
- 10 lateral lunges (5 each side)
- 10 single leg reaches (5 each side)
- 10 high kicks (5 each leg)
- 10 leg swings (5 each side)
Most of these exercises are pretty standard for a dynamic warm-up. However, keep in mind that your dynamic warm-up will be unique to your sport, gender, age, and body type. So, you should work with a physical therapist or sports trainer to find the one that’s best for you.
Dynamic warm-ups are much simpler than most people think. They take only a few extra minutes out of your day, but that extra time spent before you exercise is absolutely worth it for the benefits the warm-up provides. So, the next time you’re getting ready to exercise, don’t forget to get your dynamic warm-up in first, because your body will thank you.