Completing a warm up is common practice across most sports. It is a time for the athlete to prepare their joints, tendons, muscles and mind for activity. The warm up should be specific to the sport and incorporate a combination of skills, dynamic movements and mobility exercises, which often build in intensity. The effects of a dynamic warm up have been well researched, and shown to have a positive effect on reducing injury risk.

One example of a dynamic and sport specific warm up is the popular ‘FIFA 11+ Program’ designed for soccer. This program included a combination of strength, awareness, neuromuscular control (dynamic and static), balance, slow and fast running drills, landing and jumping, and change in direction drills. Studies have shown the FIFA11+ can reduce injury rates by 46% and decrease time lost to injury by almost 29% which is pretty amazing! *1

Drills are an essential component of all warm ups. They are used to ready the body for the intensity of the activity, stimulate the athlete’s neuromuscular control, and focus their mind on the task ahead. For runners, they are a good opportunity to focus on specific technical cues both before competition and training. For example, if the runner is trying to work on their arm drive, walking through the running gait and thinking about swinging their arms up could be one way to achieve this goal.

As a coach I like my athletes’ running drills to build in intensity and sometimes complexity. Through each drill I want them to be thinking of a technical cue specific to them – not just going through the drill without any thought!  As a physio I often use running drills to help my clients warm up their neuromuscular system with the hope of reducing the risk of injury.

Below are a list of running drills I use myself, and highly recommend to my clients. Each drill builds in intensity and complexity. These drills can be used across any running based sport.

Toe walking

Technique:  Walking up on the toes, hands on hips. As the foot lifts off the ground the toes point upwards. The knees stay straight.

Goal: to warm up the achilles and ankle stabilisers, develop ankle balance and control as well as pelvic position and control

Heel toe walking

Technique: Roll from the heel to the toe, as the toes lift off the ground the knee is brought to hip height, swing the opposite arm through to eye height.

Goal: Neuromuscular control for running technique, foot and ankle balance/control, warm up calf complex, deep core, core and hip flexors

A Skip

Technique: Skipping rhythm, opposite arm and leg, high knees, hands to eye height, focus on driving down and back into the ground.

Goal: Warm up hip flexors, quads, hamstrings calf complex, lumbo-pelvic stabilisers as well as part practise of running technique.

High knee/bum kick

Technique: Fast heel to bum with knees in front.

Goal: The most sport specific drill, neuromuscular control exercise, developing the feel of heel to bum with faster running and the concept of down and back into the ground instead of reaching out and potentially over striding.

Ankle cycles

Technique: Cycle feet at ankle height (like pedaling a bike with as straight a knees as you can), knees have minimal bend, land on mid foot, think ‘toes up”

Goal: Warm up glutes and ankle, develop foot control

Hamstring slides

Technique: Front leg straight, toes up, back leg bends as the trunk is brought forward, arms scoop through.

Goal: dynamic neural stretch for the posterior thigh and leg

Run throughs

Goal: Put the cues and neuromuscular patterns developed into a series of short runs of increasing pace with each run

Emily McLean

SSPC Physiotherapist