Pre-Run & Post-Run Essentials: The 10 Best Warm-Ups & Cool-Downs to Boost Your Performance

February 29 2024 – Power Rich

A man and woman stretching on the side of a road with mountains in the background.
A man and woman stretching on the side of a road with mountains in the background.

Whether you're pounding the treadmill or hitting the trails, you know that running can be both exhilarating and challenging. While it's common knowledge that how you start and finish your run can make a world of difference, sometimes those extra minutes seem complicated to spare. But let's look at the facts: even committing to a 5-minute pre-run stretch and dedicating another five minutes for cool-down exercises can be a game-changer for your performance and recovery.


Any expert in the field – be it a professional runner, personal trainer, or even your friendly neighborhood physical therapist will be quick to tell you that warm-ups are like a gentle nudge to your muscles, a wake-up call before the main event. And cool-downs? They're the soothing lullaby that helps your body regain its normal rhythm after an intense run.


That's why, in this blog, we break down how to warm up before a run and the crucial steps you need to take once you're done. Now remember these are more than just simple exercises; they're your keys to a more substantial, safer, and enjoyable running experience. So, with that being said, let's get started!


Your Pre-Run Ritual

First, let's start by understanding the crucial role of warming up. When you start exercising, your body needs a heads-up that it's about to get moving. A good warm-up increases your heart rate, boosts muscle flow, and enhances joint flexibility. Think of it as an invitation to your body to get ready for action!


If you're wondering, "How long should a warm-up last?". We've got you. A good warm-up should take about 5-10 minutes. It's not the main event, so don't exhaust yourself here. Mistakes to avoid include going too intense too fast, doing static exercises, or, worst of all, skipping the warm-up entirely. With these pointers in mind, let's review some of our favorite exercises.

Best Warm-Ups for Running

Picture this: your muscles are like elastic bands. Pull on it too hard, and it might snap. The same principle applies to your muscles. Stretching them when they're cold can result in serious injuries. That's why it's crucial to warm them up and make them limber with a routine that includes some light cardio and dynamic stretches for running.

  1. Ankle Circles: Gently rotate your foot at the ankle, creating circular motions with your toes in one direction, then switch to the other. Make sure to do both sides!
  2. Arm Swings Warm Up: Swing your arms forward and backward to engage your upper body muscles and set the stage for an efficient run.
  3. Leg Swing Stretch: Find a sturdy support and swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled manner. Alternatively, do this from side to side. Do this for 10 swings per leg. Performing these two exercises will help increase hip mobility and relax the surrounding soft tissues, effectively preparing your hamstrings for activity.
  4. Walking Lunges: This one is a great leg warmup. Take a step forward, bending your knee at a 90-degree angle, and then push off to the next step. Repeat for 10-12 lunges on each leg. If you want to switch it up, include a twist when you're in your lunge to activate your upper body.
  5. Cardio Warm-Up Exercises: Consider adding jogging on the spot, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, up-downs, or even high knees to your warm-up. Aim to do these for 20-30 seconds each. Adding these plyometrics exercises to your pre-run stretch routine will elevate your heart rate and increase your range of motion.


    What to do After Running

    Alright, you've crushed your run, but it's not over yet. Embracing a proper cooldown routine is your golden ticket to catching your breath, letting your heart rate return to its usual pace, easing muscle soreness, and minimizing the risk of injury. Just like your warm-up, plan for a 10-minute post-stretch. Here's the cardinal rule: resist bouncing while you cool down. While it's tempting to push your flexibility when you're all warmed up, you can easily overdo it and strain your muscles. Believe us when we say it'll do you more harm than good. Instead, focus on the art of slow, deliberate stretches, each breath guiding your movement. And once you're done, treat your body to the holy trinity of recovery: protein, carbohydrates, and water. Your muscles will thank you.


    Cool Down Exercises for Every Runner

    As you wind down from an intense run, it's essential to let your body gradually transition to a state of rest and recovery. Here are a few examples of cool-down exercises to help you wrap things up. Remember that you'll want to hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds without bouncing for most of these.


    1.  Walk it Out: Here's a simple yet important step you don't want to skip! After you wrap up your run, don't just come to a sudden halt—your body won't appreciate it. Instead, shift gears into a walk. Taking 5-10 minutes will help prevent muscle contraction, allow your heart rate to settle down, and ease your body back into its usual state.
    2. Standing Quad Stretch: Let's get into our cooldown static stretching poses. For our first one, stand on one leg and gently grasp the opposite ankle, bringing it towards your glutes. Keep your knees close together, feeling the stretch in the front of your thigh, and maintain your balance throughout the stretch.
    3. Standing Hamstring Stretch: For this move, stand tall and extend one leg forward, keeping a slight bend on the other leg. Hinge at your hips and reach towards your toes, feeling a stretch along the back of your thigh and hamstring.
    4. Seated Twist: This is one of the best back stretches for runners. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend one knee and cross it over the other leg, placing the opposite elbow on the outside of the bent knee and twisting gently to the side, feeling a stretch in your lower back and spine.
    5. Pigeon Pose: Start in a plank, then bring one knee forward and place it behind your wrist, angling it outward. Extend the other leg straight behind you, then lower your upper body over your front knee, feeling the release in your hips and lower back.


    Make sure to give these five cooldown exercises a go, and let us know what you think! While not an exercise, access to a foam roller is a great way to increase circulation and jumpstart the recovery process. To do so, grab your roller and gently go over the tight spots in your muscles. It's like giving yourself a mini-massage!


    Making it a Habit

    To make warm-ups and cool-downs a consistent part of your running routine, try this: treat them as non-negotiable as your actual run. Make a playlist of your favorite chill songs for your

    cool-down. Or find a running buddy who loves these rituals as much as you do.


    Let's Get Up and Running

    There you have it, fellow runners! While not the glamorous part of your workout, having a pre-run stretch routine and a series of cool-down exercises on rotation are crucial to keeping your body in tip-top condition. Remember, it's not just about performance; it's about staying injury-free and savoring every stride. So, the next time you tie your shoelaces, make sure to give your body the care it deserves. Your future self will thank you for it!