The Ultimate Pre-Run Routine: 10 Activation Exercises to Get You Ready to Run

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When it comes to running, preparation is key. A solid pre-run routine can make a world of difference in your performance and help prevent injuries. By taking the time to properly warm up, stretch, and activate your muscles, you can enhance your running experience and unlock your body’s full potential. In this article, we will explore the essential steps of a pre-run routine and provide you with 10 activation exercises to incorporate into your warm-up.

The Importance of a Pre-Run Routine

A pre-run routine serves as a valuable tool for any runner, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete. It helps prime your body for the physical demands of running, increases blood flow to your muscles, and enhances your range of motion. Additionally, a pre-run routine can mentally prepare you for your run, allowing you to focus and get into the right mindset.

Steps to Prep Your Body

To ensure you are adequately prepared for your run, follow these essential steps in your pre-run routine:

  1. Hydrate: Start by drinking a glass of water to hydrate your body. Proper hydration is essential for optimal performance and helps prevent muscle cramps.
  2. Fuel: Eat a light snack containing carbohydrates and protein about an hour before your run. This will provide your body with the necessary energy to sustain your run.
  3. Dress Appropriately: Wear moisture-wicking and breathable clothing that allows for freedom of movement. Choose appropriate footwear that provides adequate support and cushioning.
  4. Warm Up: Begin with a 5-10 minute brisk walk or a slow jog to gradually increase your heart rate and warm up your muscles.
  5. Stretch: Perform dynamic stretches that target the major muscle groups involved in running. Dynamic stretches help improve flexibility and prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout.
  6. Activate Your Muscles: Incorporate activation exercises into your routine to engage specific muscles and enhance their readiness for the run. These exercises focus on areas such as the glutes, hips, and core.
  7. Foam Rolling: Use a foam roller to release any tightness or knots in your muscles. Foam rolling helps improve circulation and flexibility, reducing the risk of injury during your run.
  8. Mobility Drills: Perform mobility drills that focus on increasing your range of motion. These drills target areas such as the ankles, hips, and shoulders, allowing for smoother and more efficient running mechanics.

10 Activation Exercises to Incorporate

Including activation exercises in your pre-run routine can significantly benefit your overall performance. Here are 10 exercises to incorporate:

  1. Glute Bridges: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes at the top. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions.
  2. Fire Hydrants: Begin on all fours, keeping your back straight. Lift one leg out to the side, keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Aim for 12-15 repetitions per leg.
  3. Clamshells: Lie on your side with your knees bent and ankles together. Keeping your feet together, lift your top knee while maintaining contact between your feet. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions per side.
  4. Lateral Band Walk: Place a resistance band around your legs, just above your knees. Step laterally to the side, maintaining tension in the band. Repeat for 12-15 steps in each direction.
  5. Plank: Assume a push-up position with your forearms resting on the ground. Engage your core and hold for 30-60 seconds.
  6. Bird Dogs: Start on all fours, extending one arm forward while simultaneously extending the opposite leg backward. Hold for a few seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Aim for 12-15 repetitions per side.
  7. Single-Leg Deadlifts: Stand on one leg, keeping your knee slightly bent. Hinge forward at the hips while extending your opposite leg backward, maintaining a straight line from head to toe. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Perform 8-10 repetitions per leg.
  8. High Knees: Stand tall and run in place, lifting your knees as high as possible while maintaining a quick pace. Perform for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  9. Ankle Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift one foot off the ground and rotate your ankle in a circular motion. Repeat for 10-15 circles in each direction before switching to the other foot.
  10. Leg Swings: Stand next to a wall or support. Swing one leg forward and backward, keeping it straight, and gradually increasing the range of motion. Repeat for 10-15 swings per leg.

By incorporating these activation exercises into your pre-run routine, you can effectively engage the key muscles necessary for running and improve your overall performance.


Q: How long should I spend on my pre-run routine?
A: Ideally, your pre-run routine should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. This allows for adequate warm-up, stretching, and activation exercises.

Q: Can I skip the warm-up and go straight to stretching?
A: It is not recommended to skip the warm-up phase. Warming up helps increase blood flow and prepares your muscles for the upcoming workout. Stretching without warming up can increase the risk of injury.

Q: Should I stretch before or after my run?
A: It is beneficial to perform dynamic stretches before your run to warm up your muscles. Save static stretching for after your run to help with muscle recovery and flexibility.

Q: How often should I foam roll?
A: Foam rolling can be done daily or as needed to release muscle tension and improve flexibility. It is particularly helpful before and after intense workouts.

Q: Can I perform activation exercises without a warm-up?
A: Activation exercises are most effective when performed after a proper warm-up. Starting with a brisk walk or light jog helps increase blood flow and primes your muscles for activation.

Q: Are there any specific activation exercises for sprinters?
A: While the activation exercises mentioned in this article are beneficial for all runners, sprinters may also consider incorporating explosive movements such as power skips or bounding exercises into their routine.

Q: Can I perform activation exercises without equipment?
A: Yes, the activation exercises provided in this article can be performed without any equipment. However, resistance bands can be used to add additional challenge and intensity to some exercises.

Remember, a well-executed pre-run routine can significantly improve your running performance and reduce the risk of injury. Make it a habit to incorporate these essential steps and activation exercises into your routine to unlock your body’s full potential and enhance your running experience.

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