Stretching runner

The 7-minute, run-faster, go-longer, stay-injury-free, no-gym-required, strength-training warm-up plan

SEVEN MINUTES can be an eternity—for a runner, at least. That’s enough time to bang out a mile repeat, ice a cranky knee, or boil water for pasta. And now, it’s also enough time to squeeze in a strength-training workout.

We created this seven-minute routine for busy runners who like to spend their time logging miles, not lifting dumbbells. It targets muscles that’ll give you the biggest payoff in the least amount of time—no gym membership necessary. This workout is meant to be a prerun warmup since it “wakes up” your glutes and your core (the muscles of the stomach, back, and hips). “When you perform these exercises, you’re telling your brain to switch on the muscles that need to fire while you run,” says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., USA Triathlon coach, Ironmantriathlete, and author of The Female Body Breakthrough. “Strengthening these areas means that each step you take will be more powerful and stable, which makes you more efficient, faster, and less likely to get injured.”

Because each exercise works multiple muscle groups, you’ll also see total-body benefits—in your shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. To learn exactly how—and why—to do Cosgrove’s seven-minute routine, just turn the page.

Reverse Lunge

1:30 STAND WITH YOUR LEGS shoulder-width apart. Take a step backward with your left foot and lower yourself down into a lunge position—your left knee should almost touch the ground and your right thigh should be parallel to the ground. Keep your back straight and make sure your right knee doesn’t extend past your toes. Return to the standing position, then step backward with the other leg. Do 12 to 15 lunges on each side. To make this more challenging, you can hold dumbbells.

Stepping back activates your glutes and loosens your hip flexors, which will improve your running form.

Then try this move from Mark Nutting, C.S.C.S., a personal trainer and former track coach, before you run. Do a reverse lunge, and as you return to the standing position, balance on one foot. For even more of a challenge, raise your arms as you’re returning to the one-legged position. This strengthens your upper body, lower body, and core as well as all of your body’s small stabilizing muscles, which limit joint movement and control balance, so you can run smoother over a longer period of time.

Single-Leg Hops

3:30 STAND ON ONE FOOT in a small imaginary square. Hop a foot or two forward to the top left corner of the square, then a foot or two to the right, then to the back right corner, then to the left. Go six times around and then switch legs. If that’s too difficult, hop forward and back—12 times on each leg.

In addition to warming up your glute and core muscles, this exercise strengthens your calves and ankles while also improving your balance.

Lower down into a lunge. Look at your front knee—is it straight over your second toe? If it’s wobbly or if it tracks in, you’re not engaging your glutes. “A knee that collapses in step after step can cause overuse injuries,” says trainer Rachel Cosgrove. “By strengthening the glutes, you will support your hip and keep your knee aligning properly with every lunge or step you take.”

Single-Leg Reach

4:30 BALANCE ON YOUR RIGHT LEG with your left foot a few inches off the ground. Bending at the hip, reach for your right foot with both hands. Your left foot will come off the ground behind you. Do 12 to 15 on each side. Hold dumbbells for a greater challenge.

This move warms up your glutes and core. It also loosens tight hamstrings, improves balance, and strengthens many of the small stabilizing muscles in your ankle, which protect the joint and make it resistant to injury.

Plank With Alternate Leg Lift

5:30 GET INTO PLANK POSITION—toes and elbows on the ground (elbows directly under your shoulders) with your back straight and your abdominals tight. Lift your left leg up off the ground and hold for two seconds. Return to the ground and repeat with the right. Do five to eight on each side.

This will help you stabilize your core while your legs are moving, which carries over to running—your core must stay steady while your legs are in motion.

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