How to Warm Up Like an Olympic Athlete

If there is one thing we amateur runners can learn from Olympic athletes, it is how to warm up properly. They do not always show it on TV, but no athlete ever starts a race straight from sitting around or after just some light jogging. Before they enter the stadium, the athletes get to jog, do drills and practice faster strides on a separate warm-up track. For sprinters like Usain Bolt the warm-up can be more than 100 times longer than the competition itself! They know that a good warm-up can make a significant difference in terms of both injury prevention and running efficiency.

How Olympic Athletes Warm Up

Warm-up routines for elite runners have been perfected and standardized through scientific studies that tested the efficiency of each jogging lap, drill, stretch, etc. Competitive runners know that, even though slow jogging is a key part of a distance runner's warm-up, it is not a complete warm-up in itself.

Integrating Dynamic Stretches and Drills Into your Warm Up

Elite runners do not only warm up to get their heart rate up but also to wake up all their running muscles, lubricate their joints, and fire up the neuromuscular system to prepare the body to run efficiently.

Examples of Pre-Run Dynamic Stretching

The most important joints to move in all their range of motion before running are the hips, ankles, knees and shoulders. 

Leg swings to the side

Leg swings forward and back

Examples of Running Warm-Up Drills

When adding drills to your warm-up routine choose drills that will help you get you to use all the muscles you will use running (do not forget your upper-body), tighten up your core, loosen up your hip flexors, and  re-adjust your posture to stand tall.   Listen to your body and do the drills slower first, at walking pace.  If it feels easy and you can do them all with good posture, add some skipping and bouncing as long as you are not getting out of breath and your muscles are not starting to feel sore. 

Heels Under Butt

Walking Lunges

Carioca drill

Walk on heels

Skipping with arm circles (windmills)

If a drill requires too much effort or focus to do it, then practice it first as part of your post-run strength training routine rather than as part of your warm up.

Finally, do not forget to relax and keep it fun in whatever way works best for you. Usain Bolt often finishes his own warm-up with some dance moves: