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The Warm-Up: Best Use Of Time or Waste Of Time?

Do you ever have a difficult time achieving mental focus or feel yourself moving slower than normal?

Maybe you find yourself walking out of the door straight into a run and your heart rate jumps through the roof on what should be an “easy” run or walk on your Yes.Fit.App run challenge.

Yikes! It’s no fun to run while your heart feels like it’s beating right out of your chest.

The good news is that’s not how running is supposed to feel.

Heart rate is a great metric to measure the amount of work or stress that your body goes through when exercising or running.

People often skip the warm-up, thinking it will save them time and get them right into the workout… but what you will find is quite the opposite.

Instead of crushing your workout, you’ll find that you spend the first 10-15 min of your sport or activity trying to get your body and mind ready to perform, dragging through the first half of your workout.

So How Does The Warm-Up Help Your Workout?

Ideally, the warm-up is designed to raise your body temperature and increase blood flow to the body and muscles. As you move, heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, and capillaries expand thus moving more volume of blood through the body.

If you have ever sprinted from a standstill, you will notice you will get tired sooner than you anticipated, and you might start to feel blood throbbing behind your eyes or hear your heart pounding in your ears. This is your body’s response to the sudden workload and its subsequent effort to catch up.

Your body is always fluctuating and regulating itself to meet the demands of each day. The warm-up is a great way to improve mental acuity, joint mobility, and prevent injuries. It primes not only your muscles but your nervous system as well.

A good runner or athlete understands the importance of heart rate variability and how a good warm up can help performance by priming their muscles and their nervous system.

What is a proper warm up ?

A proper warm-up routine should be performed prior to activity to prepare the body for the demands of a workout. Dynamic movements are the best way to prepare your body for the sport you are about to play.

Some principles you want to look for when picking a new warm up routine include:

  • Will this activity increase my core temperature and muscle flexibility?
  • What about the heart rate and respiratory rate?
  • Does my warmup actually use the muscles my sport/activity uses?
  • Does my mind feel “game ready” once I am finished?

Your warm-up should be long enough to raise your core temperature but should be limited to 4-10 minutes so it does not become taxing on your energy levels. The idea is that it should help bridge the gap between your resting heart rate and your targeted heart rate— It’s not a good thing to be going from 50 bpm to 175 bpm in <60 sec.

What Does A Warm-Up Look Like For A Runner ?

As the specificity of the sport increases, so should the activity in the warm-up. Sprinkling in hip mobility in addition to core activation will be important for the average runner to feel engaged and ready to run/race.

Here is a dynamic warm up specifically geared towards runners.

  • Leg Swings
  • Balance on one leg, keeping a safe bend on the knee you are standing on
  • Swing your other leg forward and backwards
  • You can use a wall for balance

Try 10 reps per leg

  • High Knees On The Wall
  • Stand at arm’s length from a wall & place both hands on the wall
  • Lean forward keeping a straight line from your head to your toes
  • Drive one knee up towards the wall about hip height and then quickly switch to the other leg
  • Start slow and speed it up as you get better at it

Try 20 reps per leg

  • Squat with pivot
  • Hold a club or stick at shoulder level. Keep weight in heels, hold core tight and squat down pushing hips back, do not bend at waist.
  • Go as low as you can while keeping form and as you push back up rotate to the right squeezing the left glute as you do. Repeat and pivot to the left side, squeezing the right glute.

DO NOT TWIST BACK, pivot/rotate on feet engaging glute instead

Perform 4-6 repetitions each side

  • Walking hamstring stretch
  • Take a step forward with the right foot with your knee straight. Reach down towards your heel with both hands keeping your right knee straight. Allow your left knee to bend.
  • Return to the starting position using a sweeping motion with your hands.
  • Take a step forward with the left and repeat.

Perform 5-10 repetitions each side

  • Arm Circles
  • Make slow, small circles with the arm positioned out from your side near shoulder height (palm down or thumb up).
  • Really focus on pulling your shoulder blades together and activating the midback to keep you from leaning forward during the run
  • Try 4-6 reps forward and then backwards


The key is to engage the muscle fibers as you complete the workouts to get the most out of this routine. If your warm-up meets this criteria, you will be able to step out onto your next run ready to crush your goals.

Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself!

About the Author

Alicia Bornemann, PT, DPT

Dr. Alicia Bornemann, PT, DPT (@Borne_PT) is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is passionate about helping people live healthy and active lives. She is considered a movement expert who uses exercise and hands on techniques to achieve fitness goals by mitigating musculoskeletal pain and optimizing movement patterns. She holds an active certification with the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) and is a Graston Technique Specialist. She uses her knowledge about anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and orthopedics to help ordinary people achieve not-so ordinary goals.

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