If you're one of those people who struggles to find time to workout, much less time to warm up properly, I can relate. One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients, especially those who have gone through physical therapy to recover from an injury, is that their list of warm up exercises would take them 30-45+ minutes to finish and they just don't have the time to get them all done. So they skip their warm up alltogether even though they know it will likely lead to more pain and injury. So, if you are short on time and can only muster a few minutes to warm up before your run, bike ride or any other form of cardio, here are the most important things NOT to skip.
Before we get into the warm up, let me be clear. You should follow what your doctor says to the letter. My clients who follow their PT instructions improve faster and stay mobile and strong longer. My intent here is NOT to give anyone permission to skimp on their PT or to skip exercises they need to do. My intent here is to help those folks who are so overwhelmed that they are skipping their warm up altogether which is bad news. So in my experience, the following warm ups have the biggest impact and importance in prepping the body for movement, protecting key joints and activating weak muscles. So if you aren't doing these I highly suggest you start. This is not an exhaustive list and you may require other movements that I don't list. But these are super important and should not be skipped in my experience. If you need more, check out this post for additional back/hip warm ups and this one for shoulders.
Roll the Bottoms of Your Feet (~2 minutes total)
Get a lacrosse ball and gently roll the bottoms of both feet for ~ 1 minute each. Take off your shoes and ideally your socks too if possible. This is like magic. Our brains get so much information from our feet. But we need to wake them up by stimulating their mechanoreceptors. For more on feet, click here. But just trust me. This will automatically improve your gate and your joint alignment and help protect against ankle, knee, hip and back pain.
Foam Roll Your Thoracic Spine (~ 1 minute)
Due to desk life, most folks lack thoracic extension of the spine which weakens the core, draws the shoulders forward and can lead to aches and pains when running and biking. Foam rolling your thoracic is a great way to add some healthy movement back into the spine to keep you from hunching over. Of course you can foam roll loads of other areas while you have your roller out (here's a list of all of them) but please don't skip the thoracic! Don't have a foam roller? You can try this standing wall stretch instead until you get one.
Activate Your Core (~ 1 minute)
I don't need to tell you that engaging your core is key to injury prevention. No matter how strong your core is, if you sit at a desk odds are it needs to be "woken up" or "activated" before you exercise. Do a set of birddogs or dead bugs for 10-15 reps each, whichever one works best for you. If you want to be a core rockstar, do both.
Activate Your Glutes (~ 1 minute)
Most humans have weak glutes. Sad but true. Weak glutes lead to injury and pain. So wake them up and strengthen them daily. I suggest getting a hip circle like this one and doing 10-15 reps of either side steps or glute bridges (or both). If you don't have a band, GET ONE. But in the meantime you can do this side-lying clam drill.
Dynamic Warm Up for Your Joints (~ 1 minute)
Now that your muscles are prepped, let's prep your joints and get you on your way. Hand walkouts are my favorite go to. Do about 5 or so of these bad boys.