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The ultimate 7-minute pre-run activation series

A simple series of exercises to get your body moving well before you head out the door

Photo by: Hanna Kim-Yoo

If you ask most runners who’ve managed to stay injury-free what their secret is, they’ll tell you it’s pre-run activation. This series of drills, which takes under 10 minutes, can save you hours of time and money spent rehabilitating your worn-down body. Life is busy, which means there won’t be time for pre-run drills everyday, but when your schedule allows, this seven-minute routine will certainly help your body and your pace.

Below is a video from The Runner’s Academy in Toronto to follow ahead of your run. While a little complicated at first, after a few days, these exercises will become routine. We’ve attached some tips and tricks for mastering the movements. Do each drill for 10-15 seconds, always on both sides.

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This exercise is great first thing in the morning. It’s a gentle movement to wake you up and loosen your back. Focus on engaging your core and using your breath to control the motion.

Thoracic Rotation

Build on the cat-camel by adding a rotation. Maintain the position, but bend one arm to rotate your spine from side to side.

Bird dog

This exercise lengthens your body while engaging your glutes. On all fours, lift your opposite arm and leg at the same time. It’s all about control, so keep your movements slow and think about creating a straight line from your hands to your toes.

Bear Hold. Photo: Nike

Bear hold

From the bird dog position, bend your toes and lift your knees so that they’re about an inch from the ground. Hold this position for several seconds. You should feel this exercise in your core.

Down dog

This classic yoga position gets a running-specific twist. Once in the down dog position, alternate between stretching out your left and right calves by bending your knees.

High plank

This exercise is the plank you know and love, but balancing with your hands instead of your elbows. With the high plank, the goal is the engage your core and keep your back level with your legs.

Side plank

With the side plank, you want to make sure that your arm is at a 45 degree angle from your body, and again, ensure it’s a straight line from your torso to your feet. The side plank will then go to a hip thrust, which means bending your legs, dropping your hips and then using your glutes to lift up and push forward.

Dead bug

The dead bug is one of the best full-body exercises going. Use this drill to activate your hips and core by keeping your lower-back pressed to the ground. If you can slip your hand between your body and the floor, you’re not doing it right.

Photo: Hanna Kim-Yoo

Glute bridge

Bend your legs to 45 degrees while keeping your shoulders on the ground. Lift your torso by engaging your glutes and use your core and hips to lift your legs one at a time.

Bridge walk

Also known as hamstring walkouts, this exercise engages (you guessed it) your hamstrings. This is a pretty advanced drill, s0 feel free to work your way up to it. In the same position as the glute bridge, slowly walk your feet away from your body, while keeping your core engaged until your legs are nearly straight, then walk your heels back toward you.

Deep squat ankle mobilizer

This exercise took me months to do successfully. Spread your legs a little wider than your shoulders and sink into a deep squat. Ideally, your elbows are resting on the inside on your thighs and you’re able to rock back and forth to mobilize your ankles and settle into the stretch. If this movement is too challenging initially, deep squat while holding onto a pole or railing. This way you’ll feel the stretch without falling over.