How do you warm up before a run?

Perhaps jumping jacks or some other stretching maneuvers from elementary P.E. class? If you’re like most runners, chances are you’re not warming up enough.

I know I wasn’t.

For many years, my pre-run routine consisted primarily of throwing my leg up on a railing and trying to touch my toes. I was smart enough to do a mile or so of easy running before beginning speed work, but not much else.

During the past few years, and many races ranging from 5K fun runs to the marathon, I’ve learned the importance of warming up properly. As I approach the age of 40, I’m less sore when engaging in some dynamic warm-ups

before running. We also do this with our participants before every 5K run we host.

If you too would like to be less sore, here are some tips about how to warm up before you run.

It’s all About Dynamic Stretching!

Dynamic stretching is stretching that involves motion.

It’s intended to imitate the sorts of movements you’ll be doing during your activity. Static stretching (holding a stretch for a given length of time – what most runners do pre-run), has been proven not to help (and in some cases may harm you). Apparently, it doesn’t prepare your body to run.

Most of us spend far too much of our days sitting. As a result, we often have tight hip flexors. Sitting limits our range of motion and other muscles must compensate, which can cause other issues down the road.

Hip flexibility is critical to avoiding running related injuries. One of the keys to efficient running is creating enough range of motion in your hip flexor to get your leg to move back behind you before your toes push off. No matter how fast or how far you intend to run, you need hips (and other muscles) that are primed to run.

One of the best ways to imitate the motion of running is the lunge. Warming up with a series of lunges, a “matrix” if you will, has been something I have found to best prepare me to run. It also strengthens my core and other muscles that might be getting lazy.

What is the Lunge Matrix?

The lunge matrix, based on physical therapist Gary Gray’s work, is most commonly associated with elite running coach Jay Johnson. He describes it as “…quintessential, elemental, fundamental… to staying healthy as a runner.” While sometimes running coaches can make things unnecessarily complex, this is something that I’ve noticed has made a positive difference in my running.

The lunge matrix is a series of 5 lunges, done 5 times on each leg for a total of 50 lunges. The idea is to wake up your whole body before running. It causes your body to move in all three planes of motion, which are:

  • The sagittal plane (forward and backward)
  • The transverse plane (rotational plane – like swinging a golf club)
  • The frontal plane (side to side).

According to Coach Johnson,

“…when you move in all three planes of motion before you run, you are simply running more athletically. Example would be that the abductor and adductor muscles are working at a high level in the side lunge. You are using those muscles in the warm-up and then they are ready to go once you’re running.”

This is How to Do The Lunge Matrix

Here is a really helpful video.

Before you run, do this lunge matrix! It takes less than three minutes and feels surprisingly good. Watch the video below to make sure you’re doing it correctly, then memorize and repeat each time you go out on a run.

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