How to: Dynamic Warm Ups for Running

Warming up is important in running. There is good evidence that those who warm up...

  • perform better in races
  • get less injuries
  • look sexier in running tights 

Okay, okay, maybe I made that last one up.

Beautiful sunrise over the river

While I am currently trying to ramp up my training using more speed, hills and tempo work, I am also trying to train smarter. This means I must stretch afterwards, I I must foam roll, and now... I must warm up.

Warming up before hitting the harder runs alerts your poor muscles that you are about to apply them to something that isn't sitting on a sofa. Warm ups heat up the body and the core, and specific warm ups like the following are also useful to prepare the muscles to fire in the specific way they will be asked to do in the race or workout. This fancy process is known as "neuromuscular activation". For a typical easy miles run this isn't required- the first mile or so at a comfortable pace will do that for you. This is for the runs where you are pushing it- the sprints, hill repetitions, tempos, fartleks, and any other runner-only glossary words you can think of.

Here's a good quote on it from this interesting article:

...The aerobic system is only one of two factors involved in developing running performance. The other is neuromuscular fitness, the ability of your brain to communicate and activate muscles whilst you are running. Though traditionally training focuses on developing the efficiency of the heart, lungs, muscles, etc, it is your brain that controls all of these, controls everything in fact. Your running form, efficiency, economy, power, stride length, stride frequency and ultimately fatigue resistance – all of these are neuromuscular in nature. None of them will be developed just by focusing on aerobic fitness.

On Tuesday morning I was doing a tempo/sprint reps run. It was -6 degrees Celsius outside and I knew I'd need a warm up to perform well. I also did not fancy freezing to death. The following are some warm up exercises I like. I never do them all. Ain't nobody got time for that. But I do try to do at least 8 or so each time I run a hard run. Some of them I certainly prefer to others, probably because of my own weaknesses.

Chances are many of my names for these exercises are not the correct ones. This list was also heavily inspired by Googling 'dynamic running warm up'. Please try not to laugh at my glamorous assistant*. You can laugh at me.

T Run with twisting hips

Nike tights || Brooks Pure Cadence || SOs old T-Shirt (No brand info) || Buff unknown

Jog forward, twisting the hips to face one side then the other for 20s. Keep your arms lifted up and out so the upper body is in a T shape.

Side Steps

Step sideways to your left for 10s then your right for 10s.

Butt Kicks

Nike tights || Nike top || Asics jacket || Nike Frees

In place, kick your heels up to your butt for 20s. Place hands on your butt, palms facing out if you don't want a muddy bum.

High Knees

In place, jog with knees high (up to hip ideally) for 20s- this one will raise your heart rate!

Hip Openers

At a walk, lift knee up towards the midline then swing the whole leg, hinging outwards from the hip joint so you have a knee still up but the whole leg 90 degrees from its initial position. Return leg to floor and do the other one. Repeat for 20s.

Leg Swings (back to front, side to side)

Standing holding something, swing each leg in its hip joint directly in front of and behind you, keeping upper body straight. Do each leg for 10s. Repeat, but facing what you are holding onto and swinging the leg horizontally in front of your body, left to right. 10s per leg.

Lunge Quad

Lunge forward with left leg; return to centre; lunge to the side with left leg; return to centre; lunge backward with left leg; centre; backward with right leg; centre; side with right leg; centre; forward with right leg. Repeat 3 times.

Backwards Run

Jog backwards for 20s. Look behind you to avoid crushing small children.


Skip for 20s, driving the knee upwards should be your main focus. Think proper meadow prancing with unicorns.

Front Kicks

With foot flexed, not pointing, kick your leg forward. Aim for your hands extended straight in front of you but avoid spraining the hamstrings. Do this exercise later in the set so you are already warmed up. Switch legs every kick, do for 20s.

Hacky Sack

Prepare to look ridiculous. K couldn't stop laughing as I did these.

Switching from foot to foot dynamically, raise the knee and allow it to fall outwards. With your hand, touch your inside calf on the same leg, which will have raised towards you. Change quickly to the other leg so your legs are in constant motion. Do so for 20s.


I look like a pretty pony!

Bounds are similar to skipping, in that they are large strides, however the emphasis is on pushing off of the landing foot fast so you are bounding from foot to foot in big strides forwards. Do for 20s.

Single Leg Hop Quad

On one leg, hop forwards, centre, left, centre, backwards, centre, right, centre for 10s then change to the other leg for 10s.

If you did all of these for 20s each (lunge quad is 40s), that's still only 5 minutes total out of your run time. You can get out of bed 5 minutes early.

Throughout all of these it is important that your posture is good- upright as if a string is being pulled through your skull upwards with you attached, shoulders back. Because you are training good movement here, your movements should therefore be exact. With this (and I'd argue with any strength training), correctness comes high above repetition on a list of must-haves.


Is there anything you guys think I should add or remove? 

What do you do to warm up? 

* She said she'd cut me if I didn't put her in the blog**
** She said she'd cut me twice if I told you all that***
** I'll take my chances****
**** This is the risk of making friends with Islanders...


  1. We do dynamic warm up on weds at club night but the rest of the time I'm so bad! I just turn up & run, sometimes walk briskly first.... Naughty!

    1. Hah usually me too! This is why I'm attempting to foster good habits :-). Thanks for commenting!

  2. Yep. It's confirmed in the vids - you are COMPLETELY bonkers! :) Would love to know what your neighbours thought! Great warm ups though - we've started doing dynamic warm ups before the club sessions and it really does make a difference!

    1. We are a bit insane ;-) , its well established!

      What stuff do you do in your warm ups? x

  3. Love this. The pics/gifs were a great idea :)

    1. Hey Brandi! Glad to see you're still around online, and thanks! X



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