Pre-Run Routine: What To Do Before a Run + 10 Activation Exercises

Running isn’t just about running.

To be a well-rounded athlete and truly excel as a runner, we need to include many other components into our training schedule, such as adequate rest, healthy nutrition, physical therapy; the list goes on and on.

But our focus today is on our pre-run routine – many people don’t actually think about what to do before a run, but it’s important! 

It’s essential to have your specific pre-run routine ready before you begin each workout

We’re going to look at:

  • The benefits (and importance) of being warmed up before starting your run,
  • How to fuel before your run
  • How to warm up cardiovascularly
  • Our 10 favorite dynamic activation exercises!

Let’s get started! 

Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

Let’s be honest, most of us throw on our running sneakers and rush out the door first thing in the morning, pressed for time and ready to get through our workout, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Begin by scheduling in 10 extra minutes to start off your workout.

That’s it, just 10 minutes. 

But even before we hit the pavement and give it our all, we need to eat!

Fuel Up

No matter what type of run you tackle on any given day, going out on an empty stomach isn’t going to enhance your performance but more likely hinder it.

You want to feel full of energy and ready to enjoy a great session. You can’t possibly do that with hunger pains and low energy from your 8-hour fast while sleeping.

Try and consume a light snack that includes carbohydrates to give you the energy you need to perform. It doesn’t need to be an entire meal, just something to get you going.

If you don’t already have a pre-run snack routine in place, here are some ideas you can try out:

Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

Pre-Run Snacks

  • A banana
  • ¼ cup of oatmeal
  • A slice of toast with honey
  • Peanut butter chocolate chips balls (these are my personal favorite….see my easy peasy, no-bake recipe below) 

Read more: Here’s What To Eat Before Running (And What Not To Eat)

Quick Recipe Idea: Peanut butter chocolate chip energy balls

1 cup rolled oats
½ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
Chocolate chips to taste!

Mix all the ingredients together and roll them into 8 balls. Keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and they are ready to go!

It’s best to try and eat at least half an hour before your training session. Ideally, I shoot for an hour to give my body time to digest.

Suppose you have trouble consuming solid foods before working out. In that case, you can always try a nice tall glass of orange juice full of natural sugar, carbohydrates, and an extra dose of vitamin C. Another alternative could be an energy gel or a hydration drink with carbs.

Now that you are fueled up and ready to go, let’s warm up!

Related: Here’s The 6 Worst Things To Do Before A Run

Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

How To Warm Up Before Your Run

Whether it be because of lack of time, or disinterest, runners tend to skip warming up more often than not. If you happen to fall into one of those categories,

I hope to change your mind today and convince you to incorporate a dynamic warm-up into your pre-run routine and begin to reap the benefits.

Benefits of Warming Up

Our legs are often beat up and tired from whatever workout we had the day before, so we can get the blood circulating and snap them out of heavy leg mode by activating our muscles.

Warming up will loosen you up, alleviate tightness, and mobilize your joints. 

Warming up will also gradually raise your heart rate and increase your body temperature to prepare you for your run.

If I begin my workout straight away and forgo my warm-up, my heart rate tends to spike more quickly than if I’m properly warmed up. (This is especially important to do before races!) 

If you ease into your workouts with a warm-up, you’ll see how you’ll be able to boost your performance in each training session you do. You’ll also reap the most critical physical benefit of which is becoming more resilient against injury. 

While you’re warming up, take advantage of the time and mentally prepare yourself for the workout. Think about the objective for the run and what you need to do to get ready to go. 

Related: How Stretching Is Sabotaging Your Running – Avoid These 5 Harmful Stretching Exercises

How much time do I need to warm up?

You only need 10 minutes to do it all, that’s it!

I include 5 minutes of light cardio and 5 minutes of activation and dynamic stretching when I warm up. Then, I’m good to go!

If you live in a colder climate, you may need a tad bit more time to heat up those muscles, so see how you feel, and if you need to extend your light cardio to 10 minutes, go right ahead!

My Pre-Run Routine

Cardio – Start By Jogging

I begin my warm-up routine with a light, 5-10 minute jog.

This should be done at a leisurely, comfortable pace that raises your heart rate just slightly.

At the end of my jog, I usually add in a few 10-second strides to pick up my feet, accelerate my cadence and adjust my running form

If you prefer to do a different type of cardio to get yourself going, anything will do. You could bike, row, walk or use an elliptical machine to get those muscles nice and warm. 

Now that our muscles are warm, let’s continue on to our activation.

Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

10 Activation Exercises

Dynamic activation exercises help prepare your body for the stress to come. A proper dynamic workout will get your body used to the range of motion you need while running. 

It’s imperative to keep moving during these exercises and switch legs or positions constantly.

You should not do static stretching before a workout; you want to leave that for after you finish. 

Here’s a quick sequence that I do before each of my training sessions.  

I perform each exercise for a minimum of 30 seconds.

1. Butt kicks

Butt kicks activate your hamstrings, glutes, and quads while bringing your heart rate up simultaneously. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart. 
  2. Bring your left heel up to your buttock by contracting your hamstring. 
  3. Alternate rapidly with the right leg and then left again. 
  4. Pump your arms as if you were running.
  5. Do this at a quick pace. 
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

2. Frankenstein walk

The Frankenstein walk actively stretches out your hamstrings and calves, two of the tightest muscles for us runners. 

  1. Stand with your feet together. 
  2. Extend your right arm straight in front of you. 
  3. Kick your left leg up and try to reach your right hand. 
  4. Alternate legs and arms.

(Note: Do not bend at the waist) 

Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

3. Hurdles hip opener

Hurdes will help open up your hips for better mobility before you begin your run. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart. 
  2. Lift your right leg, bent at 90 degrees, straight out in front of you.
  3. Abduct to the right by opening your leg outward as far as possible. 
  4. Bring your leg back to the center.
  5. Repeat with your left leg. 
  6. Alternate legs. 
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

4. Dynamic quad stretch

This not only preps your quads but lengthens your hip flexors. Standing on one leg also works your stability. 

  1. Stand on your right leg
  2. Using your left hand, take your left foot and pull it up toward your butt. 
  3. Hold for 2 seconds
  4. Repeat with your right leg. 
  5. Alternate legs.
Pre-Run Routine: What To Do Before a Run + 10 Activation Exercises 1

5. Knees hugs

Warm up those quads, hamstrings, adductors while at the same time continuing to work on your stability. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart.
  2. Lift your left knee up to your chest.
  3. Press your knee against your chest.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds
  5. Repeat with your right leg.
  6. Alternate legs. 
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

6. Tabletops

Tabletops will activate and stretch out those glutes.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart.
  2. Lift your left leg, keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees, and abduct. Your shin should be parallel to your hips
  3. Place your left hand on your left knee. 
  4. Gently push your left knee downward, keeping your back straight. 
  5. Repeat with your right leg. 
  6. Alternate legs. 
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

7. Walking Scoops

For me, this is the hardest one. As runners, our hamstrings are always very tight, so try and get them loosened up with these scoops. 

  1. Stand with your right leg forward and your left leg back, both heels touching the ground. 
  2. Bring both arms to your back heel, and in a scooping motion, move up towards and past your toes. 
  3. Take a step forward and repeat on the other side. 
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

8. Inchworm

The Inchworm is a great exercise to continue loosening up those hamstrings and activating your entire body. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-length apart.
  2. Reach your hands out in front of you toward the ground.
  3. Bend your knees slightly and place your hands on the floor in front of you. 
  4. Walk with your hands outward until you have reached a plank position. 
  5. Then walk your feet forward in small steps until you reach your hands. 
  6. Stand up and repeat. 
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

9. Bounds

Bounds activate your leg muscles while also working on stability and power. 

  1. Balance on your left leg. 
  2. Launch yourself upward while bringing your right leg up to waist height along with your left arm. 
  3. Repeat on the right leg. 
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

10. Toe and heel walk

Last but not least, let’s get some mobility in those ankles! This joint constantly gets jammed up from the impact of running, so it’s a great one to loosen up before your workout. 

  1. Alternate walking on your tiptoes and your heels.
Pre-run routine: What to do before a run

Ready to go!

Your muscles are warm, your heart rate is up, and you should now feel primed and ready to go for your workout!

By warming up correctly, you’ll feel a remarkable difference in your workouts and even prevent potential injuries; it is definitely worth taking the time to do it!

Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn Tocci

Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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