Warm up like a pro

warmup

Follow our advice for your pre-run warm up to improve your performance and beat injury.

Do you stretch before a run? If so, think twice about which moves you do. While static stretching (holding a quad or hamstring stretch for 30 seconds, for example) after a run can prevent injury and increase your range of motion, research shows static stretching before running can slow you down because it loosens your muscles too much, making them less efficient. Plus stretching cold muscles can also lead to injury.

This doesn’t mean you can just set off on your run with no warm-up at all, though. ‘Do some dynamic stretching,’ advises former Olympic athlete and trainer at The Body Holiday’s Well Fit Retreat, Daley Thompson (thebodyholiday.com). ‘This increases your heart rate and body temperature while reproducing the proper action of running and switching on the muscles you’re going to use for your run.’

Try actions such as bounding, which mimics the striding action you’ll be using while encouraging you to run on the balls of your feet, says Thompson. ‘Dynamic stretching is also more fun than static stretching,’ he adds. So what are you waiting for?

1. Bounding
Time: 2–3 minutes

Benefits: Opens up the legs and teaches you how to accelerate quickly and powerfully.

How to do it: Run with an exaggerated stride length, forcefully pushing off the ball of your foot with each step and lifting your front knee high with each bound. As your legs warm up, gradually increase your speed from 60 per cent effort to 70, 80 and then, briefly, 90 per cent.

2. High knees
Time: 2–3 minutes

Benefits:
Teaches you to lift your knees high and  run on the balls of your feet, which should make running feel easier when you get used to it.

How to do it: Staying on the balls of your feet, bring your knees up as high as possible with each step. Keep your steps small and as fast as possible, and drive your opposite arm forward and up as each knee comes up.

3. Butt kicks
Time: 2–3 minutes

Benefits:
Will loosen off tight quads (front of thigh) muscles and increase your range of motion, making it easier to run faster.

How to do it: As you run, bend your knee and kick your heel back towards your bottom with each step. Steps should be short and rapid as you focus on how fast you lift your feet, rather than moving forward. Drive your arms forward with each step.

4. Carioca
Time: 2 minutes each side

Benefits:
Switches on your co-ordination, emphasises quick feet and opens up your hips.

How to do it: Bend your knees, so they’re soft. Without twisting your body, cross your left leg in front of your right leg, bring your right leg across, and then cross your left leg behind your right leg and keep going, slowly building up speed.