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Get Ready To Move With Essential Pre-Run Drills

This dynamic workout will reader your legs for the miles and body ahead.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Before a run, it’s best to do more than just take a sip of water and double-knot your shoes.

Our muscles and cardiovascular systems need to be ready for the intensity of exercise—and the best way to prep your system is through a dynamic warm-up. It may seem inconsequential but a proper warm-up before a harder workout can make or break the entire session.

The key to an effective warm-up is developing a routine. Walking or jogging followed by a short period of light stretching is a good start. Before more challenging runs, fold drills into your plan as well. Regardless of whether you’re a newbie or an elite, this routine will get you feeling fresh and ready for the miles.

Prepare for the most effective workout possible. Jumping into a hard effort spikes the heart rate and puts the body in aerobic shock. A proper warm-up ensures that the working muscles are loose and ready to perform more efficiently. Likewise the cardiovascular system becomes heightened through increased blood flow. Without an increase in heart rate and breathing prior to a session, you limit the potential fitness gains in the workout itself.

Help prevent injuries. A warm muscle performs better than a cold one, but a warm muscle is also less susceptible to injury. As the body heats up, blood flow to working muscles increases and less strain is placed on tendons, thus reducing overall injury potential.

Energize the muscular system. Jogging and stretch-ing work as a warm-up, but drills add another layer related to strength, power and resilience, making the routine even more productive.

Related: 5 Essential Before And After Run Stretches


1.  Jogging: 3–5 minutes of jogging at a very easy effort. Beginners may start by walking. If you’re doing a track workout or very hard effort, jog for 1–2 miles instead.

2.  Stretching: 5(ish) minutes of light stretching, not to test your flexibility but rather to lightly stretch all the major muscle groups, including quads, hamstrings, calves, IT band, hips and glutes.

3.  Drills: This will take 6–15 minutes. Start easy and work the following six drills into your routine. Over time you will become more comfortable with the athletic nature of the drills.

Why: To develop calf and foot strength needed during the toe-off phase in running while also stimulating neuromuscular timing for running with a high cadence.
How: Skip with a moderate leap off one foot, return to the ground and immediately leap off the other foot, maintaining a compact arm swing as if you were running. This slow-action drill should have a staccato rhythm.
Do 2 to 4 reps of 50 meters.

Why: To loosen hip flexors and glutes and increase hip, leg and gluteal mobility while also using lateral strength required to run with good form.
How: Standing upright with your head and torso facing forward, move laterally in one direction by placing your trailing leg in front of the lead leg. Then move the lead leg in that same lateral direction and place the trailing leg behind the lead leg. Maintain a fluid motion with your arms rotating in the opposite direction from the legs.
Do 2 to 4 reps of 50 meters to the left and then to the right.

Related: 5 Dynamic Stretches To Start Your Run

Why: To engage the hamstrings, accentuate the recovery portion of the running gait and improve leg turnover.
How: While running in place, try to kick yourself in the glute with your heel on each stride. Focus on keeping the rest of your body still and simply flicking your lower leg backward. If you’re not making contact, you need to improve your dynamic range of motion.
Do 2 to 4 reps of 15 kicks with each leg.

Why: To loosen the upper body, open up the lungs and diaphragm, and increase blood flow as you continue to warm up the body to prepare for the workout.
How: With an upright torso, gently start skipping forward at a slow pace and comfortable cadence. At the same time, swing the arms forward in big circles with arms straight.
Do 2 reps of 50 meters.

Related: Bodyweight Pre-Run Core Workout

Why: To develop the lateral strength and agility necessary to stabilize the body while running.
How: With an upright torso and level head, move laterally in one direction by alternately bounding with your legs spread and your legs together. Swing your arms overhead in an opposite pattern to maintain balance.
Do 2 to 4 reps of 50 meters to the left and then to the right.

Why: To accentuate knee lift and glute and hamstring power, which are keys to running fast and efficiently, with powerful leg drive.
How: Alternate thrusting knees upward until your thigh breaks a plane parallel to the ground. Take short steps with a very quick cadence, and focus on soft, flat foot strikes near the ball of your foot while using your core to lower your leg slowly instead of letting it crash to the ground.
Do 2 to 4 reps of 15 lifts on each knee.

Alan Culpepper is an Olympic runner and coach with decades of running experience. Run Like a Champion: An Olympian’s Approach for Every Runner by Alan Culpepper with Brian Metzler is out now from VeloPress ($19,

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