By Erica Walsh
MRG Contributor

Do you do any sort of warm-up before you lace up your shoes and hit the streets or the treadmill? If you don’t, you may want to try a dynamic warm-up before your run.  Performing dynamic warm-up exercises prior to running can prepare your body to run, especially if you pop out of bed, throw on your shoes at dark o’clock in the morning, and head off to get in some miles, or after a long day of sitting in front of your computer screen.

Early morning run in downtown St Joseph

The Power of a Dynamic Warm-Up

A dynamic warm-up helps prepare your body to run by raising your body temperature, increasing your heart rate, and lubricating your joints. This can help reduce your risk of injury and lead to enhanced performance.  

A dynamic warm-up, as opposed to static stretching, should be done prior to running — it actively moves your muscles and joints in preparation for running. Static stretching, meanwhile, is when you are holding a position for a period of time — this should be done after your run when your muscles are warm.  

Even though running is mainly a lower body exercise, I like to start my dynamic warm-up with some upper body movements. Your upper body and torso also move while running and I feel that these exercises ease you into some of the more complex lower body movements.  

Perform the exercises below before your next run

1.) Large Arm Circles

Large arm circles (one arm at a time) 5x forward and 5x backward. Focus on the extension of the shoulder at the top of the arm circle.

2.) Arm Pushes

Arm pushes across the chest – alternate arms 5-10x each arm.

3.) Overhead Arm Reach

Overhead arm reaches to the opposite side – alternate arms 5-10x each arm.


4.) Tabletop Hip Circles

Position yourself on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Lift one leg, out to the side, while keeping your knee bent. Circle your leg forward 10x, then circle your leg backward 10x. All movement should occur at the hip joint. 

5.) Iron Cross

Lie on your back with your arms out to your sides.  Lift one leg and bring it across your body toward your opposite hand, return to starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Alternate sides and repeat 5-10x per leg.

6.) Scorpion

Lie on your stomach with your arm out to your sides. Lift your leg behind you and kick your heel across your body toward your opposite hand, return to starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Alternate sides and repeat 5-10x per leg.

7.) Standing front-to-back leg swings

Hold on to a wall or tree for support, if needed. Swing your leg forward and back, keeping your torso upright. The movement should come from the hip and not the waist. Repeat 10x on each leg. 

8.) Standing side leg swings

Hold onto a wall for support, cross your leg in front of you, and then swing out to the side.  Keep your torso upright, the movement should come from your hip.  Repeat 10x on each leg.  

9.) High Tiptoe Skips

Drive your knee up and extend through the opposite ankle until you are on your tiptoe while lifting the arm on the side that you are standing on. Switch sides. This should be a fluid movement, similar to skipping but you never leave the ground. Alternate sides and repeat 10x on each side.  

10.) Straight Leg – Leg Kicks

AKA Zombie kicks or Frankenstein kicks – Extend your arms out in front of you and standing on one foot kick the opposite leg straight out in front of you toward your hands while keeping your leg straight.  Alternate sides and repeat 10x on each side.  

Performing this warm-up should take about 5 minutes. I timed myself and it took 4:53 to run through the entire series of exercises.  

Additionally, add a short walk to the beginning of your run after doing these warm-up exercises. It doesn’t have to be a long walk, just a minute or two helps get your body ready to run. Give the warm-up routine a try and see how it feels for you.  

Erica Walsh lives and runs in St. Joseph, Mich. She’s an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach, providing one-on-one training to her clients. She’s also instructed group exercise classes and conducted group and individual health coaching sessions. Watch for more training tips and motivation from Erica in upcoming posts.

Have a question or thought for Erica? An idea for an upcoming post? Please share with us! Drop MRG a note at

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