Running, as a collective sport and passion, is a regular source of clashing ideologies and approaches to training, but one observation has generally endured across runners and coaches of all experience levels: active warm-ups almost always trump static stretches as an effective means of pre-run preparation. Also called dynamic warm-ups and drills, these exercises enrich the body through light motions aimed at key running muscle groups, ensuring that runners are loose and less prone to overuse injuries.
If you are new to active warm-ups, here are a few basic, yet crucial exercises to get you started.
Striders are about as easy as it gets with active warm ups. Simply pick a straightaway and stride to the end, making sure to stretch your legs out with each step. This exercise not only helps with running form, it generally helps flush out sore legs and increase speed for last minute kicks.
The A skip technique essentially merges high knees with basic skipping form, resulting in a series of quick burst drills that help to loosen the hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes. The exercise helps runners get into a lighter, more nimble state of mind, exaggerating the running motion to make the actual run or race feel less taxing on the legs.
Butt kicks are self-explanatory in execution, but their effectiveness and purpose in running preparation has been a topic of debate in recent years. Generally, the exercise has been found to condition the legs for a running-based range of motion while also helping to strengthen and loosen up the hamstrings and glute muscles.
Not to be confused with its weight-based counterpart, the single leg deadlift stretch follows a similar motion, but is focused primarily on loosening and conditioning the hamstrings. Focus on going down as far as you can while maintaining your balance, trying to do a stretch with about every other step.
Like striders, leg swings are fairly easy to execute; simply find a wall, establish balance, and swing your leg out in a lateral motion, keeping it as straight as possible in the process. This exercise will do wonders for tight iliotibial bands, glutes, and quads; they are perhaps one of the most popular active warm-ups due to their simplicity and their convenience (they can be completed almost anywhere).