The "stay-injury-free" running warmup

As many have heard by now, I’ve spent the last 6-7 months or so training for an Ironman (with a ways still to go).

As you can imagine, that training involves quite a bit of running, and as you can also imagine, with tons of miles comes an increased chance of injury.

Within the first month or so, I had already experienced some IT-band issues, & struggled with some knee pain, that sat me out for a few weeks.

Thanks to this, I had to develop a warm-up routine that both rehabbed my current injury, and strengthened the necessary muscles to prevent future injury.

Outlined below is the warm-up I’ve used before each running workout (3-4 times per week) since then, and I’ve enjoyed roughly 6 straight months of 25-30 miles per week worth of injury-free running!

Items you’ll need

Not much, just a:

  • Foam roller
  • Peanut / 2 lacrosse balls taped to one another / Gemini

Well, what’s the warm-up?

The warm-up will take you approximately 5-10 minutes total, but won’t take up much energy, leaving you fresh to start the run.

 

Phase 1: Rolling

Use your peanut to roll the muscles that flank your shins.

  • The space in the center of the peanut goes right over your shin bone, and you roll up and down your leg, focusing most of the pressure on your tibialis anterior (muscle on the outside of your shin).

Use your peanut or foam roller to roll the outsides of your lower leg (peroneus longus)

  • Laying on your side, roll up and down the outside of your lower leg, focusing lots of pressure on the peroneus longus as it approaches the knee. Much of what people assume are IT-band issues, actually stem from here.

Foam roll your calves & hamstrings

  • Place the foam roller under your legs, raise your butt off the ground using your arms as leverage and roll from ankle all the way up to the tops of your hamstrings several times.

Phase 2: Dynamic movement

Clams

  • Each leg, 15 reps per leg

Knee tuck to lateral leg raise

  • On your side, right after your 15 clams, tuck your top leg into your chest, then extend it fully, and raise it using your adductors to do so. You should maintain your position on your side while doing this exercise, resisting the urge to roll towards your back.

Phase 3: Static stretching

Standing straddle

  • For 30 seconds to 1 minute, stand tall with your legs spread wide. It’s important to note that I specifically say “stand tall” to get a good inner groin stretch. Bending forward does impact the hamstrings, but tightness in the inner thigh can pull your knees inward while running causing IT-band stress, arch collapse, and some other not-so-fun movement patterns.

Contract/relax calves

  • Stand on a step, or otherwise raised surface with only your toes making contact. Let your heel sink as far as you can, and count to 8. Then flex your calf, pushing yourself up on your toes, count to 8 again, and repeat twice on each foot.

Phase 4: More dynamic movement

Just before your run, perform these movements to really wake up the muscle fibers you’ll be using. Immediately upon completing these, begin your workout.

Butt kicks

  • Begin to jog but on each step, make your heel kick your butt. Perform 10-20

Knee raises

  • In the same cadence as your butt kicks, shift from kicking your butt to quickly raising your knees close to your chest. Again, do this 10-20 times

Sideways strides

  • Face sideways and with long legs (not much knee bend) think about scissoring your legs so your front leg pulls you along, your back leg crosses over and then pushes you forward. You only need 5-6 steps per direction here.

Air squats

  • Perform 10-20 air squats right before you take off. It helps pull all these stretches and movements together, giving your legs one last wake-up call before it’s go-time.

That looks like a lot…

It’s really not. Once you move through each phase, the entire thing should take no more than 10 minutes. Time that’s easy to commit to, if it’s going to keep you off the sidelines.

Give it a try, see how it goes, discover some tight areas you didn’t know were there and more importantly, discover what it’s like to run injury free!

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