Warm Up Like an Elite Runner

April 24, 2017

Most of us who love to run aren’t elite athletes. We fit training into our hectic lives – waking up in the wee hours of the morning to run before getting kids ready for school or hustling to the office. Squeezing in workouts during lunch breaks, nap times or after children have gone to bed on basement treadmills. We’re on the clock the minute our workout begins, often having little additional time to spare. As master jugglers of our lives, many runners attempt to save time by skipping or skimping on a proper running warm up. I’m here to encourage you to give yourself those 15 minutes back.

Just as we wouldn’t take a test without studying or drive a car before getting gas, we shouldn’t be running without warming up properly either. I stress the benefits of a proper running warm up often. It helps supply adequate oxygen to muscles by dilating our blood vessels, raises our internal core body temperature to help muscles be flexible/efficient and slowly raises our heart rate to avoid putting too much stress on our bodies too quickly. Running warm up exercises should be dynamic in nature, meaning you are in motion versus holding static stretches for extended periods of time.

When I attended Brooks Altitude Camp last month, I had the opportunity to warm up with the Brooks Beast Track Club (the elite middle-distance runners sponsored by Brooks Running).

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

This is a routine adapted from what the Brooks Beasts do before all their workouts that any runner can adopt before hitting the pavement.

  • I recommend starting with a slow, 10-minute jog before completing the set of dynamic exercises.
  • Find a flat area where you have about 30 to 50 meters of space.
  • Perform each exercise below for 10 to 15 meters and then skip while swinging your arms the rest of the way. Turn around and complete the next exercise, skip to the end and continue.
  • I’ve created the handy graphic below you can download to remember the exercises.
Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

1. Knees to chest

While walking in a straight line, alternate pulling right knee and then left knee to your chest with each step.

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

2. Walking quad stretch

While walking in a straight line, alternate pulling your right foot and then your left foot toward your butt to achieve a quad stretch with each step.

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

3. Hamstring stretch (toes in and toes out)

Bend over and touch your toes (or reach as close to your toes as you can) while they are pointing in (pigeon-toed). Take a step and then bend over and touch your toes while pointing out with heels together. Continue walking and repeating your standing hamstring stretches with each step.

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

4. Front/side knee raises

With your arms out or preferably behind your head like you are going to do a crunch, bring your knee up to your chest and then immediately out to the side. Take a step and then do the same movement with your opposite leg. Continue alternating knee up and then out as you walk with each step.

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

5. Lunge with twist

Do walking lunges being mindful that your knee is in line with your ankle in a 90-degree line. Twist your torso toward the lunging leg. Repeat with alternating legs as you walk. Keep your eyes open unlike me in this photo. *wink*

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

6. Straight leg swings

Warm up your hamstrings by performing these walking stretches. As you walk, raise your leg up as high as you can and try and touch it with your hands with each step. Alternate left and then right as you walk.

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

7. Lateral step-overs 

While walking sideways, pretend you are stepping over a hurdle. Pick your leg up and bring it over the imaginary hurdle and the same with your other leg. Do the first set leading with your left leg and then as you walk back lead with your right.

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

8. Hurdle walk-overs

Do the same exercise as above but walk forward instead of sideways. Imagine you are stepping over a hurdle that is placed in front of you by swinging your leg in a C shape from the side of your body to the front and over the imaginary hurdle while walking.

9. Straight leg scissor skips

While moving forward, scissor your legs by kicking them out in an alternating fashion.

Elite running warm up on runladylike.com

10. Butt kicks

Move forward as if you were jogging but try to hit your butt with your heels as you run.

11. High knees

While moving forward raise your knees up to your mid-section in quick steps.

12. Strides

Run four to six strides for about 40 or 50 yards each. Think about running at a hard effort while being light on your feet. Walk or jog slowly back to the starting point and repeat again.

Now, go have a great workout!

Tell me about your running warm up routine. Do you have a consistent routine or do you skip your warm up?



Thanks for posting this! I’m coming off a prirformis injury so many of these were recommended by my PT. I need to remember to these before I hit the road.


Hi Olivia! I’m so glad you found this routine helpful and that your piri injury is on the mend. It can be such a pain in the ass … literally 🙂 Wishing you happy and healthy miles. xo

Kara A. Forrest

Hi Jes! This is a great round up of warm-ups! I like that you included pictures- I need visuals! I also have some others that I like to do as well! I actually learned a few good ones from watching my daughter’s high school track team do dynamic warm-ups before races! I know you are enjoying motherhood with Bella! xoxo -Kara


You know I hardly ever make time for this but I know I should and, I really have to – there is no excuse and it can lead to injury when you’re not properly warmed-up. I definitely feel a difference from the start of my runs when I do a dynamic warm-up first. Now, if I could just have some more TIME!!!
Love the pics 🙂

Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

The photos are great! A dynamic warm up makes a huge difference for me. I include some of these exercises but this definitely gave me some new ideas as well. Thanks for sharing!