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Warm Up Essentials

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This week’s Women’s Running “Ask A Coach” feature reminds us all to devote time to a proper warm up cycle before heading out on a run. Check out the expert advice below from Coach Jenny Hadfield!

Question: Why do my legs feel like lead at the beginning of a run and what can I do to wake up them up?

Answer from Coach Jenny Hadfield: In order to wake your legs up and safely raise your heart rate it’s crucial to make sure you invest in a full warm up. Though we tend to cut out things that don’t seem all that important, like walking to warm up, walking actually leads to gradual progression in your heart rate and progressive increase of circulation to muscles. Here are some tips for a proper warm up cycle:

  • Aim to complete a walking warm up of at least three to five minutes, sometimes 5, depending on how much you need to warm up.
  • Do dynamic and active exercises (high knees, lateral walking, walking backwards) and then move slowly into progression of the run.

Butt kicks are just one example of dynamic stretching to include in a warm up routine.


If you include a warm up routine in your workout and still experience heavy legs, you might want to investigate your training further. Take a look at your performance to make sure you are training in the right hear rate zones. When your training plan calls for an easy run, make sure you are truly running at a light pace and not overextending yourself. If you’re constantly running to push yourself, your body begins to break down and you experience fatigue, which can result in legs that feel like lead.

It’s also important to take a look at your diet to see if you your nutrition might be causing lethargy. Sometimes active women struggle to take in enough calories and protein. Make sure you monitor your iron levels with your doctor to ensure anemia is not present.

Taking a look at the whole picture may reveal the cause for heavy legs. Most importantly, remember to train mindfully. Train by what the day gives you rather than what the schedule says.

Need some ideas for dynamic stretches you can easily complete during your warm up routine? Check out this quick video from our friends at FitSugar with five simple moves:

Coach Jenny Hadfield is the co-author of Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals. She is a nationally recognized speaker and writer. Learn more about Jenny at

Let’s be honest. You’re among friends. Do you warm up before your run? Why or why not?

Also, we want to answer your running questions! Leave your query below or tweet your questions to @KaraDeschenes for a chance to receive expert advice!