General warm-ups (walk before jog, jog before run) have long been accepted as beneficial, not only for injury prevention, but for performance enhancement as well. Increases in core temperature, blood flow, oxygen uptake, improvements in neuromuscular efficiency, and mental preparedness and focus are all aspects that can provide both short- and long-term benefits.
Dynamic flexibility options to improve total-body functional movement should be incorporated for all activities, including running. But more sport-specific and athletic styles of warm-ups can elevate running to a new level. Running, of course, is a single-plane motion (sagittal plane—running straight ahead). By adding some multiplanar running maneuvers, runners can stimulate the muscles and joints in ways that can transfer to better mechanics when running straight ahead. Athletes in other sports have long used these types of exercises because most other sports require multiplanar, dynamic movements. Runners may overlook these because running does not require side-to-side or rotational movements. But it is for this very reason that runners should incorporate these movements. By moving through the foot, ankle, hip and spine in a three-dimensional, multiplanar fashion, runners can better protect themselves from the repetitive, single-plan impact that is inherent in running.
Multiplanar Run/Walk Drills:
The following exercises can be performed for 10 to 20 reps/steps or 10 to 20 seconds. Each drill can be separated by a walk or light jog in between.
1. Walk or jog backwards
Walking/jogging is a great way to influence foot mechanics. By making contact with the toes first, the toe motion will be exaggerated and help enhance the toe-off.
2. Side Shuffles
These help warm-up the foot, ankles and hips. Hip adductors and abductors activate, move and stabilize the hips. This move is helpful with lateral stability and neuromuscular efficiency.
3. High Knees
At a light jogging pace, stay on the balls of the feet and exaggerate a high-knee action. Emphasize springing off of the balls of the feet through soft landings. This can increase absorption and reflexive power in the mid-foot strike.
Leg crossovers (cariocas in athletics and grapevine in group exercise) work from toe to neck, requiring the feet to dynamically decelerate and accelerate and help mobilize the hips and spine.
5. Butt Kicks
At a light jogging pace, stay on the balls of the feet and exaggerate the knee motion by kicking the heels to the glutes. This can increase spring and absorption of mid-foot landing and can dynamically mobilize the quadriceps.
A Dynamic Warm-up can contribute to pain-free running longevity & help you run with better results for many years to come. They only add a few minutes to your run so give them a try!
Paula Smith, ACE CPT