The warmup and cooldown are the easiest parts to skip when it comes to our workouts. We justify to ourselves that they don't matter nearly as much as the actual workout does — but that couldn't be further from the truth, especially when it comes to running.
"To most people [running] just seems like that thing you do when you don't know what else to do, or the basic form of 'cardio' exercise that just seems boring and mindless," Michael Olzinski, MS, Purplepatch endurance coach and Equinox run coach, told POPSUGAR. "I believe that running is possibly the single most underestimated form of exercise as far as the degree of difficulty, complexity, and demands that it places on your body."
Naturally, a physical activity that takes that much effort requires a comprehensive warmup. Not only will it help you perform better, but "a proper warm up can leave you feeling loose and relaxed," according to Mike. "It can improve the form and technique that you run in for your workout. It dramatically reduces the risk of injury for the session and over time," he continued. "It also can help improve your athletic sense of coordination." Those are all things we want more of, please.
So what makes a good warmup? First of all, forget static stretches. Mike breaks your warmup down to three categories:
Active Range of Motion Exercise
"Hip swings, arm circles, lunges, deep squats, or V-ups are great examples," Mike told POPSUGAR. These movements will warm up all the major muscle groups that you'll call upon during your run. Mike said you also want to touch on all the major joints of your body — shoulders, torso, hips, knees, and ankles — because you use all of these when you're running.
Core Balance and Activation
Running Specific Dynamic Exercises
Finally, these exercises will get "your heart rate ready to train and get your body prepped for a good workout." These movements are things you're probably more than familiar with: jumping jacks, high-knee drills, jump rope, and burpees.
Taking all of that info, let's get into what your warmup should actually look like from start to finish. It doesn't have to take a long time, but you should really invest these 10-15 minutes to getting your body nice and supple. You'll be much happier with your results, whether you're trying to shed a few pounds or improve your time.
We've included nine exercises in total below, three for each category Mike laid out. Go through this whole thing from start to finish, and you'll become the running champion of your dreams.