If your a new runner, one of the most important areas you don't want to neglect is the warm up drills before you run.
It may be hard to believe but, dynamic warm up drills are the stepping stone to improving many areas of running including:
- Running Mechanics
More importantly they are designed to improve the range of motion in your hips.
When I talk to new runners about their warm up routines, I almost always get the same responses.
"I just stretch" or "I don't have time".
Which is why I thought I should share this video with you from Oscar Sanchez, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, who designs creative and effective running programs.
Take a look at his 5 minute warm up routine with 5 simple dynamic warm up drills.
Oscar is an elite runner who has competed in multiple Marathons and Half Marathons in which he has won or placed in his division. With a B.S. in exercise bio-science and other certificates he knows this type of warm up will allow your body to experience a full Range of Motion, preparing it for more intense exercises like weightlifting and can seriously decrease your risk for getting injured.
Dynamic Drill #1 Active downward dog
Performing this drill will loosen up your calf muscles and hamstrings. Oscar points out, beginners might find it difficult to touch the toes and suggests that you use your shins or knees instead.
Keep your hands and feet wider than shoulder width and avoid repositioning when you feel your hamstrings starting warm up.
Start out with 20 reps using alternating touches.
Yoga for Runners
The downward dog is a yoga practice, used for regaining lost energy for runners after a race and promotes blood circulation.
Body builders, who struggle with muscle mass, use the downward dog to balance strength and flexibility.
According to this website about yoga, "One key way yoga can help prevent running injuries is by cultivating mindfulness. The more aware you are of how your body feels from day to day or from pose to pose, the more likely you are to notice tight or injury-prone areas that need attention."
Dynamic Drill #2- Standing Leg Swings
Focus areas of these dynamic warm up drills are the hip flexor and hamstrings. Holding on to a stable wall, start by swinging the inner leg and pretend you are kicking a ball. With each swing, the leg should get closer to its full range of motion.
Start with a 15 second rep on the right leg. Then switch to the left for 15 seconds.
What you what to go for is a smooth fluid motion. Try not to forcefully swing your leg. Some factors to developing a hip flexor strain include inadequate warm up and training.
The Big Deal About Being Dynamic?
Dynamic stretches, like walking lunges or leg swings, help improve performance for a certain activity.
For example, performing this drill if you are going swimming wouldn't be a good decision.
However, for runners like you and me, there are benefits to warming up and stretching the hip flexors, extensors, adductors, and abductors. Avoiding a serious injury is definitely at the top of that list.
Dynamic Drill #3- Right Leg Cadence Drill
This dynamic drill warms up the hip muscles before you run and requires that you to make light contact with the ground. While holding on to a stable surface lift your right knee and extend the leg in a running motion.
According to Oscar, your reps on each leg should be at least 15 seconds.
What is a Cadence?
Cadence is the number of times your foot hits the ground in one minute.
It can improve areas like speed, mechanics, distance, and form. Coach Jack Daniels once conducted a research that determined most runners achieved a cadence of a 180 SPM.
This shouldn’t be your goal if you’re a beginner- especially during warm up drills before you run.
Your racing and warmup cadence are not the same and shouldn’t be. Try to determine your cadence for each type of run. It is difficult to improve your cadence, but it does take time.
I would encourage you to focus on your form before increasing your speed.
Dynamic Drill #4- Running Skips or Assisted Knee Lifts
Lifting your left knee and simultaneously skipping with your right. Then alternate sides and repeat the process. Make sure to lift your legs 1-2 inches off the ground and keep your arms in motion to mimic the actual running.
Start with 30 second reps and try not lift your leg to high off the ground.
You may think that this simple dynamic warm up drill isn’t worth your time but with the impact on your run game should be.
Running skips train the body to use elastic energy stored in the muscles and tendons. You can also develop the strength, power and endurance of your hamstrings and glutes.
Range of Motion in the Ocean
According to this article from Web MD, "Range-of-motion exercises help maintain normal joint function by increasing and preserving joint mobility and flexibility...In addition to preserving joint function, range-of-motion exercises are an important form of warm-up and stretching."
Dynamis Drill #5- Lateral Squats
For this warm up drill, you're focusing on your stabilizing your hips. Your feet should be wider than your shoulder width when you spread them apart. Before you go into a half-squat position, step out on your left leg and quickly come up bringing in the right leg (side steps).
In the video, he says, that it is ok to start with ¼ squats.
Start with 15-20 reps x 2 of quarter squats and work your way up to the half mark.
The Truth about Hip Stability
Our hip muscles are a great source of power for sports and exercises. For example, golf players need a strong and stable hip to transfer the force developed in their back swing.
For Runners, the hip stabilizes the legs during the phases of the gait cycle. It is also your ability to maintain your center of gravity and produce strength and coordination.
Lateral squats functionally strengthen the hip adductor, and is great warm up drill for developing dynamic flexibility.
Dynamic warm up drills should be part of your routine. The best part is that it only 5 minutes of your time to lower injury risk level and increase your performance.