training plan, warm up, cool down, stretching, mobilisation, recovery, injury prevention.

A Guide to Effective Warm up and Cool Down Exercises

Warming up and cooling down are essential parts of any workout routine, especially for higher intensity workouts, for several reasons:

Preventing Injury: Warming up gradually increases your heart rate and circulation, which helps to loosen your muscles and joints. This reduces the risk of injury during the main workout by preparing your body for the movements it will perform.

Improving Performance: A proper warm-up can enhance your performance by priming your cardiovascular system, increasing blood flow to your muscles, and improving flexibility and range of motion. This means you'll be able to perform at a higher level during your workout.

Mental Preparation: Warming up mentally prepares you for the workout ahead, helping you to focus and get into the right mindset for exercise.

Reducing Muscle Soreness: Cooling down after a workout allows your heart rate and breathing to return to normal gradually. It also helps to remove metabolic waste products, such as lactic acid, from your muscles, which can reduce muscle soreness and stiffness.

For a warm-up, you should focus on dynamic stretches and movements that mimic the activities you'll be doing during your workout. For those who have niggles or old injuries that can be aggravated with higher intensity workouts, mobilisation and dynamics stretching can have a protective effect.  

Run for at least 10 to 15 minutes and then set aside some time and space to do your warm up drills, at a minimum I suggest, you do lateral and front leg swings, side steps, grapevine, high knees and strides. Feel free to include some of the upper body movements if you have time.

Mobilisation exercises:
Leg Swings: Stand next to a wall or sturdy object for support. Swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled motion, keeping it straight or slightly bent. Move the leg to its comfortable extreme, do not bounce the movement. Repeat for several swings, up to 20, then switch legs.

Lateral Leg Swings: Stand next to a wall or sturdy object for support. Swing one leg laterally and outward so it is horizontal and in line with the hips, swing back in front of the standing leg. Keep the movement controlled and smooth. Move the leg to its comfortable extreme, do not bounce the movement. Repeat for several swings, up to 20, then switch legs.

High Knees: Stand in place and lift one knee up towards your chest, then quickly switch to lift the other knee. Continue alternating knees while pumping your arms in sync with the movement. As an alternative you can add a skip to this movement.

Side steps: Start in the standing position, take a step sideways and bring your other foot so that you are in standing position again. Repeat this 20 times. You can incorporate a lateral arm swing, from mid-point to horizontal to shoulders with every step.

Grapevine: Start in the standing position with your feet together. Then step to the side with your right leg, crossing it behind your left foot. Next step your left foot to the side, next bring your right foot over, in front of your left foot. You can accentuate this movement by making sure the step has a high knee (hip height). Repeat 20x and then return to the start facing the same way. This effectively works both legs.

Strides: A short (50m) and fast run at between 80-90% of maximum speed. Focus on upright form, with slight lean forward. Chin up, do not over stride, pump your arms, complete the distance, walk or jog back and repeat, 4 times.

Butt Kicks: Stand in place and bring one heel up towards your glutes, alternating legs in a jogging motion for 20m. Try to kick your heels up towards your buttocks with each repetition. Repeat 20m jog twice.

Arm Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Rotate your arms in small circles, gradually increasing the size of the circles. After several rotations, switch directions.

Jumping Jacks: Start with your feet together and arms at your sides. Jump up, spreading your legs wide and raising your arms overhead. Jump back to the starting position and repeat. A variation to jumping jacks is side steps where you take a step to the side and swing your arms to shoulder height, bring your non-leading leg to the leading leg and then repeat.

Hip Circles: Stand with your hands on your hips and feet hip-width apart. Circle your hips in a clockwise motion several times, then switch to a counterclockwise motion.

Shoulder Rolls: Stand tall with your arms relaxed at your sides. Roll your shoulders backwards in a circular motion, then reverse direction and roll them forwards.

Lunges with a Twist: Step forward with one foot into a lunge position, keeping your back straight and your front knee aligned with your ankle. Twist your torso gently towards the side of your front leg, then return to the starting position and switch legs.


For a cool-down, Run for 10-15minutes at Easy or recovery pace (slower than Easy pace). This will help flush out the lactic acid that may have built up during your workout.

After your workout you should focus on static stretches that target the muscles you've used during your workout. Most athletes focus on areas that tend to get tight post exercise. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and breathe deeply. Focus on holding the stretch, do not bounce and do not overextend. Some good cool-down stretches include:

Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the floor with one leg extended straight in front of you and the other bent so that the sole of your foot rests against the inner thigh of your extended leg. Reach towards your toes, keeping your back straight.

Quadriceps Stretch: Stand tall and grab one ankle behind you, bringing it towards your buttocks. Keep your knees close together and your standing leg straight. Hold onto a stable surface for balance if needed. To extend the stretch, push forward with your hips.

Upper Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall with one foot in front of the other. Lean forward, keeping your back leg straight and your heel on the ground, until you feel a stretch in your upper calf muscle. Switch legs and repeat.

Lower Calf Stretch: Place one foot against a wall, push the knee gently toward the wall, you will feel the stretch in your foot and lower calf.

Glute Stretch: Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Take one leg and place over the other leg so that your foot is flat on the floor by your thigh. Keeping your back straight, twist your torso so that alternate rests against the outside of the knee and gently push against the upright leg, feeling the stretch in the glute.

Remember to listen to your body during both the warm-up and cool-down phases and modify the exercises as needed to suit your fitness level and any specific limitations or injuries you may have.


Our Training Plans & Coaching

Novice / Beginner / Recreational / Intermediate to Advanced

Durations 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 weeks

5k training plan

10k Training plan

Half marathon training plan

Marathon training plan

Fully personalised 1:1 Coaching


Back to blog

Leave a comment