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4 running warmups to try as winter approaches

Runner holding her foot in a stretch
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Dynamic running warmups are the best way to kick off any running workout. But when you're pacing through cold temps, snow, and ice, they're an absolute must.

What do hamstrings do, anyway?

When you head out in winter weather, cold temperatures can decrease blood flow to your limbs (i.e., your legs) and reduce the elasticity or stretchiness of your muscles and body's connective tissues.

Basically, it makes running harder. And a cold body is more prone to injury, too.

But, by getting blood moving to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, running warmups help keep your winter runs safer — and way more enjoyable. So before you even step outside, take at least five minutes to do these head-to-toe running warmup exercises.

1. Ankle ABCs

When you're about to run on unevenly packed snow, spend some quality time warming up your ankles. It'll help prevent any ankle rolling or twisting while keeping you light on your feet. Here's how:

  • 1. Sit down with your feet on the floor and your hands behind you as support, then extend your knees slightly to raise your feet off the floor.
  • 2. Maintaining this position, move your ankles to trace the outline of each letter in the alphabet in the air with both sets of toes.

2. Side hurdles

Your hips are the control center for everything your legs do when you run. Head into your runs with your pelvis feeling nice and limber by following these steps:

  • 1. Stand tall with your feet together.
  • 2. Shift your weight to one leg. Bend the opposite leg's knee and raise it up to waist height. (Place one hand on a wall or sturdy piece of furniture if needed for balance.)
  • 3. Keeping your knee raised, rotate it out straight to your side and behind you as far as comfortable.
  • 4. Lower your foot back to the ground.
  • 5. Continue for 10 reps, then repeat with the other leg.
One runner stretching his hamstring after the run

3. Butt kicks

Ever hear about tight or pulled hammies? By increasing blood flow and "waking up" your muscles, this simple drill helps reduce the risk of aches and pains in your hamstrings or behind your knee:

  • 1. Stand tall with your feet together.
  • 2. Shift your weight to one leg, then bend the opposite leg's knee. Raise your heel to lightly tap your glutes. (Place one hand on a wall or sturdy piece of furniture if needed for balance.)
  • 3. Straighten your knee to lower your foot back to the floor.
  • 4. Continue for 20 reps, then repeat with the other leg.

4. Reverse lunge with knee drive

This total-body mobility move warms up your hips, knees, and ankles while waking up your core and arm muscles. Plus, it raises your heart rate and warms your core body temperature. As soon as you finish this one, you should be all warmed up and ready to head outside:

  • 1. Stand tall with your feet about hip-width apart.
  • 2. Take a giant step back with one leg, swinging your arms in opposition. (Place one hand on a wall or sturdy piece of furniture if needed for balance.)
  • 3. With your back leg balanced on the balls of your feet, bend your hips and knees to lower toward the floor as far as comfortable.
  • 4. Pause, then push through your front foot to stand back up, again swinging your arms in opposition.
  • 5. As your back leg moves forward, raise your knee to waist height.
  • 6. Pause, then lower back into your next rep.
  • 7. Do 10 reps, then repeat with the other leg.

Especially if you're new to running in cold weather, take the time to perfect these warmups. A few more minutes on the floor of your living room can mean many more hours of safe and happy winter miles!

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
K. Aleisha Fetters

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Headshot of Aleisha Fetters

I'm a quirky (aka nerdy) strength coach with a passion for science and sweat. I love to help people meet their body goals, but it's their mental and emotional gains that make me do a happy dance. My flirtation with running includes two half marathons and, someday, I will run 26.2.