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As an avid runner, leg day is vital to my success not only during races, but also in strength building and injury prevention. Every good leg day, of course, starts with a great warm up. After all, warming up before any workout is important to prevent injuries and to get the blood flowing.
A few of my must-do warmup exercises for leg day are:
1. Jumping Jacks
This well known exercise starts the blood flow and slowly begins getting your heart rate going. It is also a great way to loosen up.
I do this for at least 1 minute, focusing on my breathing and good form. It’s important to not go for the most you can rep out within the minute, but good form. Do not rush as you warm up.
2. High Knees & Butt Kicks
These can be done either staying in one place or moving across the room. The most important tip to remember is quality over quantity. Be sure you are actually getting your knees as close to hip height and touching your butt (if you can, or close to). You want to be sure you are warming up with full extension and not just going through the motions.
3. Glute Bridges
Lay down on the ground with your arms extended at your side and knees bent. When you’re ready, push your glutes together and lift your hips up as high as you can. Hold at the top for a moment, then bring back down to the starting position. This warm up is great for your core, glutes and entire backside.
I do this for a cycle of 10-12 times. If you want to add a challenge, place a band on your thighs and complete this warm up.
4. Leg Swings
Find something to hold onto (a bar in the yoga room, the sides of a squat rack or anything that you can hold onto with room to swing your leg). This warm up is ideal for optimizing blood flow and getting your heart rate going.
I stand with one arm holding and swing my leg back and forth as high as I can in both directions and then switch sides. Then, I move to side leg swings. Again, hold onto the bar/side with my arms fully extended out and swing my leg from side to side. This movement is great for opening up the hips.
5. Squats & Lunges
Once the blood is flowing and my hips are loosened up, I finish my warm up with body weight squats and walk lunges. When doing this warm up, form is the most important focal point. Squatting with feet shoulder-width apart and squatting down as far as you can while still maintaining good posture and form.
As you become stronger and more comfortable, you’ll be able to go further down. Then, begin walking lunges by starting at one side of the room. As you stride out, keep your form in check as you step and lower both knees to a 90-degree angle (or as close to it as you can), shift forward to the lunged out leg and step both legs together and continue on.
Warming up is so important, and though it takes extra time, it is always worth it to help with injury prevention, getting blood flowing and everything in-between. It’s also important to remember that it’s about quality over quantity with warm ups.
After a workout, recovery is just as important and preparation. It’s vital to cool down properly, to stretch at the end and be in tune with your body. If something is sore or tight be sure to give it extra attention.
Also, hydration and fueling properly afterwards can help speed up your recovery and keep you feeling strong. I am always sure to get my fix of electrolytes and protein immediately after working out.