Whether you are a walker or jogger, one of the best ways to prep your body for your workout is to perform the movement you are about to do at a slower, gradual pace. But, in addition to slowly easing into the first 5–10 minutes of your run (or walk), there are a few exercises you can include during your warm-up that might help you reduce your risk of injury—and even boost your overall performance once you hit the road. (And, after you are done, be sure to check out these 6 Seated Yoga Stretches for Walkers and Runners to wind down with a proper stretch as well.)
1. Toe-Tapping Arm Circles
What it does: Activates the muscles in the shins, ankles and shoulders to improve hand-eye coordination and ankle mobility.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and arms by sides. Begin to tap your toes by quickly flexing your right foot and lifting toes off the floor (heel stays down) and then switching to the left (imagine tapping your toes to the beat of a song). As your toes are tapping, trace a circle with your arms, reaching the arms out to the sides of your body, overhead and then cross them in front of your body as you lower the arms to complete the circle. Repeat as many times as you can for 1 minute.
2. Heel Walks
What it does: Strengthens the muscles in the shins, ankles and feet, and helps develop balance. Building strength in the ankles, feet and shins is especially important for walkers and runners, as weak muscles in this part of the body can cause muscular imbalances and even tripping and falling (if they are very weak).
How to do it: Just like it sounds: Walk forward on your heels (flex your toes all the way off of the floor) for 10 steps or so, then walk backward for 10, allowing arms to move as needed to help with balance. Repeat as many times as possible for 1 minute. Note: You may need to take a brief rest at some point during this interval if these muscles need to be strengthened, so just go for as long as you can.
3. Inner Thigh Crossovers
What it does: Engages the muscles in your inner thighs, glutes, ankles and feet—the main movers used in forward strides and quick, side-to-side movements.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands on hips. Lift left leg, sweeping it up and over the right leg (crossing the midline of your body), pointing your left foot and balancing on the right leg. Quickly step back to the start position, and repeat on the opposite side. Alternate sides for 1 minute.
4. Side Leg Sweeps
What it does: Gently warms up the hips and continues to work the balancing muscles in your ankles, feet and glutes.
How to do it: Standing with the feet together, knees slightly bent with hands at hips and abs braced, sweep left leg out to the side of the body at about a 45 degree angle, flexing your left foot. Quickly return to start, bending knees and squeezing inner thighs together. Repeat for 1 minute, changing legs each time.
Looking for a video of these moves? Check out my “Walk On: 5 Fat Burning Miles” DVD, which includes a complete walking-specific warm-up and 5 customizable 1-mile walks, along with 2 bonus routines, “Strong Feet and Ankles” and “Strong Knees and Hips,” to help you walk (or run) strong and pain-free for years to come.
Tell me, what’s your favorite way to warm up for a walk or run? Do you use any of these moves (or something similar)? I’d love to hear what works for you—please share with us in the comments below!
—Photos by Vanessa Rogers Photography