As runners, we like to go fast, it’s in our nature. We start our watch when we begin our run, stop it when we have to wait at a traffic light, and gauge our time and effort against our last outing on the same route.

Jumping straight into your run every day is actually dangerous, and adding some dynamic exercises and activation drills will not only help prevent injury but also have you ready for your best run to date.

What are “dynamic warm up’s” and “activation drill’s”?

These are a series of movements that activate the muscles you use when you run. Not only that, they will help warm up the body by promoting blood flow to these areas and increase your range of movement. Once you go through this routine a few times it will become second nature. With that, you’ll enjoy better mobility and pain-free running.

You can really do these in any order, as long as you focus on the drill you are doing and the muscle activation in that area. The following are the movements that I find work best.

How to get started:

  • High Knees: To perform the high knee, bring one knee up in front of you to hip height, and then bring it down before bringing up the other knee. I suggest moving forward in a skip like manner. This opens up the hips, helps you with your form, instils proper range of motion and biomechanics through your running gait cycle
  • Butt Kicks: To perform, lift your knees while taking small steps forward and bring your heel of the lifted knee directly under your butt. The idea here is that this movement will loosen up your quads while engaging your hamstrings. You also get the benefit of feeling a quick turnover as your feet snap back to the ground which promotes better foot speed
  • High Kicks: This movement involves extending your hand strait out and bringing the opposite leg up to touch it. You will be engaging the hamstrings and really warming up the glutes as well. Not only does this help warm up those muscles, but it also helps develop a greater range of motion in the muscles responsible for stride length and strength. Aim to kick a little higher each time and progress from run to run, week to week.
  • Walking Lunges: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and take a long step forward planting the front foot flat. Your knee should be at a 90 degree angle. After you hold the stretch momentarily, step back to the starting position and do the same with the other leg. This will work the quads and glutes to have them ready to fire during your run.
  • Jump Squats: Go into a squat position and explode up into a jump from the low squat position. This will not only build strength but also engage all the muscles you use when pushing forward during your running stride.
  • Strides: Lastly, finish off with a couple of short strides. A stride is a short run of around 100 to 150 meters where you start slow and accelerate into a fast sprint. Concentrate on good form and mechanics, around 4 strides should be fine.

How many drills should I do? How long will this all take?

You should run through these drills pretty quickly. The first few times you incorporate them into your routine before your run they may take a little time to work through, but all of this should not take more than 5 to 10 minutes. Approach this warm up on a 100m stretch of space in a parking lot. Do each drill up and back for 2 sets and the jump squats continuously for approximately 1 minute.

Bonus Drills for Advanced Runners

  • Lunge and Twist: This is a variation of the walking lunge, with an added horizontal twist on the side of your body with the foot planted. Come back up and lunge with the other leg, twisting in the opposite direction this time. Not only are you engaging your quads, hamstrings and glutes, but also your core with this movement.
  • Lateral Lunge: This variation of the lunge brings your abductor muscles into the mix which is crucial for running. Start by standing tall, feet shoulder width apart and take a step sideways, shifting your body weight towards the side in which you are stepping. The opposite leg should remain strait as you feel the burn through the leg that is bending. To return to the standing position, push off with the bent leg back to the starting stance.
  • Side Leg Swings: Stand in front of a wall, or a fence, and stabilize yourself against it with one or both hands. Swing your leg while keeping it strait and parallel to whatever you are using for support. Make sure the leg comes up to around hip level. This really opens up the hips and warms up the legs.
  • Karaoke: To perform karaoke, stand facing the direction your want to travel. Step one foot over the other and continue doing this “over-under-over-under” motion for about 50 meters. When that is completed, face the other direction and do the exact same movement so you are utilizing the other leg for the over- under motion. This drill helps hip mobility, coordination and footwork.

Do I really have to do all of this before every run?

Start slow with these new movements. Like anything, it will take some time for the body to adapt and for you to learn how to perform them. Start off by adding any three drills into your practice repertoire. After you are comfortable with the first three, keep adding additional exercises into your warm up. By embracing this pre-run routine you will notice that you feel stronger, more flexible and powerful during your runs. This warm-up routine will also help prevent injuries, so you can have more fun out there on your run!

Leave your progress and feedback in the comments below. Happy running, everyone!

David Freake Runner Bio photo
David Freake Runner Bio photo

About the Author:

David Freake is a LeanFit Ambassador and a Brooks Running athlete, with aspirations of representing Canada in international competitions. He holds a bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as a Masters degree in Healthcare Management. See more of David’s successes and career highlights.