Running warm-up: The 10 most important minutes before you run 

It can seem difficult to dedicate the time to warm up properly before a run, but the benefits are well worth it.

Time is precious, and motivation can run away quicker than Usain Bolt if you’re not careful. So often, we dash out the door to get our miles in without warming up. However, if you don’t make the effort to get your body ready for a run, you could set yourself on the path to injury.  

We know warming up can feel like a chore. So we’ve spoken with running coach Tanya Boardman, to understand the physical and mental benefits of doing it. Along with her advice, we’ll explain why you shouldn’t skip it, and how you can get run ready in optimum time with some simple exercises.  

Man warming up before run with friends in parkCredit: Shutterstock/ – Yuri A

What are the benefits of warming up before a run?

A warm-up will help you get the most out of your running session. Studies have shown that completing a warm-up could enhance performance, mentally prepare you for what you’re about to do and prevent running injuries 

“You need to gently raise your heart rate and start moving your muscles, so it’s not too much of a shock to your system when you start running,” explains Boardman.  

“Cold (non-moving) muscles are less elastic, and joints are not as mobile, so a sudden demand for activity can lead to an increased chance of injury. Spending a few minutes on a warm-up will also help you to mentally focus on your run.” 


What should I do? (And how long should I do it for?)

Dynamic stretches (moving stretches) help increase joint range of movement and are now widely used in running warm-ups. This is opposed to static stretches (held without moving) as the muscles don’t get as warm.  

Boardman advises a five-to-10-minute warm-up should suffice. Though you may want to spend some more time on it if you’re not feeling ready. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you.  

What are the best warm-up stretches?

March on the spot: make sure you swing your arms and lift your knees up while doing this. March for three minutes – you should start to feel a little out of breath.  

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Leg swings: keeping one leg straight and on the floor, lift and swing the other forwards and backwards ten times in front of your body. Use a wall or the back of a chair to balance if needed. Then repeat with the other leg.  

Woman doing a leg swing against beige backgroundCredit: Saga Exceptional

Heel raises: with your feet on the floor, slowly rise onto your toes, hold for a couple of seconds, then lower back down, keeping your legs straight and knees soft. Repeat 10 times. Use the wall or back of a chair for balance if needed. 

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Hip openers: with both feet on the floor, lift your left knee up to so it’s level with your hip. Slowly open your leg so your knee is at the side of your body at a 90 degree angle. Lower your foot back to the starting position. Repeat on opposite leg. Complete 10 sets. 

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Shoulder rolls: shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, move them backwards, then circle back towards your starting position. Complete 10 shoulder rolls. 

Credit: Saga Exceptional

Repeat the above if you’d like. Otherwise, enjoy your run and don’t forget to cool-down once you’ve finished. 

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her


Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier. When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

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