Why Sun Salutations are Such a Great Running Warm-up

Sunrise by Kazuyanagae [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ] via Wikimedia Commons

It’s common knowledge these days that dynamic warm-ups are much better for you than static stretching before running, which can cause more harm than good. Dynamic warm-ups boost your heart rate, actively engage your muscles and open your joints, and get your blood and endorphins flowing!

Many runners, however, tend to focus only on the lower body when warming up by doing lunges, squats, marches, and knee-hugs. Those are a great way to get your legs and hips ready for a run… but what about your core, shoulders, and spine?

That’s where Sun Salutations play a vital role! They warm and energize your entire body, preparing your upper body and core muscles for a run in addition to prepping your lower body.

Tight shoulders, back, chest muscles, and arms can be a detriment to your running, causing other muscles to overcompensate and throwing your body out of whack. Warming up by moving your entire body can bring awareness and stability to those areas you might be neglecting.

Sun Salutations are a series of yoga moves performed in a specific sequence. Each move is done with either an in-breath or an out-breath. They are a complete, dynamic, full-body warm-up that use every muscle in your body while providing the benefits of standing poses, backbends, and inversions. There are a few variations, but here’s an example of a basic Sun Salutation suitable for yoga beginners and runners of all levels.

Simple Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation Sequence via Sivananda

Note: this picture starts the sequence at 9 o’clock and moves clockwise around the circle.

  1. Begin standing upright. Take a deep breath in as you reach your arms up overhead.
  2. As you exhale, fold forward and touch your fingertips to the floor. Bend your knees if you need to.
  3. Inhale as you straighten your spine and look forward (not shown in the image above. See here for pics).
  4. Exhale as you step your right foot back and come into a lunge. Keep your fingertips on the floor. Bring your right knee to the floor if you need to.
  5. Inhale as you step your left foot back also, coming into a plank (the top of a push-up) position.
  6. Exhale as you lower your entire body to the floor. Rest on your belly and un-tuck your toes.
  7. With your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders, inhale as you lift your head and chest off the floor.
  8. As you exhale, lift your hips to the ceiling and bring your body into an inverted “V” position. This is Downward-Facing Dog.
  9. Inhale as you step your right foot forward, coming into a lunge like you did before, but on the opposite side.
  10. Exhale as you step your left foot forward, next to your right foot. Touch your fingertips to the floor, bending your knees if you need to.
  11. Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side and all the way up overhead, reaching up strongly.
  12. Exhale as you release your arms back to your sides.

Repeat the whole sequence 3-5 times. I guarantee your heart rate will be up by the time you’re finished! Now that you’re feeling warmed-up, have a great run!

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