Run Ready Checklist (Beginner)

This checklist is a tool to help determine if you are ready to start a beginner running program. We suggest carefully reading through the exercise descriptions and listening to the companion recordings a few times before attempting to do the exercises. If you are unsure of any of the exercises and/or have any troubles performing the exercises please talk to your doctor before attempting a running program.

So many people when they think of starting a fitness journey automatically think of running. The assumption is that running is intuitive, instinctual, and safe, so it is a good place to start. Running however, is like any other form of exercise, or any skill for that matter, it requires learning and practice to get it right. Running can place a tremendous strain on your body, that is why it is so important to make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for the journey ahead. All of that being said, running can be a very safe, enjoyable, and effective activity if you give it the due time and energy it needs. Listen to your body and pay close attention to the small details to keep yourself moving forward and on the path of success.

The following are a few basic exercises that will tell you how your body is generally functioning. Each exercise has a few key points that should be achievable as you go through the movements. Understand that if you are not able to complete any of these movements, then it is recommended that you work with your physician to make sure that beginning a running program is the right step for you.


How to do a Wall Angel

Quick Description: Stand with your back against a wall with the back of your hands, forearms, head, shoulders, and buttocks all maintaining contact with the wall. With your hands by your shoulders and your elbows at your side, slide your arms up overhead while breathing out, and then slide them back down into the starting position.

Starting Position: Let’s start with our back against an open wall area. The goal of this exercise is to maintain contact with the wall on several points of the body, which keeps us aligned properly. The back of your head, shoulders, buttocks, calves, and heels should all be touching the wall. Your elbows are bent with your hands at shoulder level and your elbows down by your ribs. The backs of your hands and forearms are touching the wall as well. We would call this a W position, as the shape of your arms create a shape similar to the W letter.

To Perform the Exercise: Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, slide your hands straight up the wall until your arms are extended fully overhead. Through this movement, you are trying to keep all of those points of contact, assessing whether or not you had to move away from the wall with any body part to reach the top. Once extended, slowly slide your arms back down to the original starting position.

Muscles Targeted: This exercise measures the range of motion of several major joints and muscles in the upper body.

Common Mistakes: This movement is not meant to be done with speed or intensity. It is meant to be performed slowly with much observation of your body for deviations in movement, pain or discomfort, or anything else that may indicate an abnormality that should be assessed by a physician.

  1.  Neutral Spine (small space between low back and wall).
  2.  Maintain contact with wall (back of head, forearms, shoulder blades, ribcage).
  3.  Be able to breath into the lower ribcage/abdomen.
  4.  Move up the wall into a ‘Y’ shape and back into the starting ‘W’ position.
  5. Movement should not be painful


How to do Single Leg Heel Raises

Quick Description: Standing on one leg. Something nearby to help with balance. Raise up all the way onto the toes and hold 3-5 secs and slowly lower down. Be sure to keep contact with the ground under the big toe at all times. Repeat a few times on each leg. Next, try the same exercise with a slightly bent knee, only raising the heel up halfway. Repeat both legs.

Starting Position: Let’s start this exercise standing up straight next to a stable object you can hold on to for balance if needed. Center your weight over your grounded foot by moving your hips laterally, shifting to the side of that leg slightly, effectively putting your grounded foot right in the middle of your body alignment. Another way of saying it, you’re not tipping to the side, your head and shoulders should stay right over your hips, but your whole vertical torso should be shifted just a little to the side so that your bottom foot is right in the middle of your body. Now raise your other foot off the ground and out in front of you slightly with your knee bent at a shallow angle, just to keep your leg out of the way and your foot from contacting the floor. Your arms should be bent to 90 degrees and at your side with your palms facing each other out in front of you, just like when running. The exception is if you are having balancing issues, you can place your hand or hands on whatever stable object you are using for balance. Finally, there will be two different positions for the knee of the leg you are standing on. The first position is with that knee completely straight as you perform the exercise, which will target the Gastrocnemius (calf muscle), and the second position is with the knee slightly bent and your hips back when performing the exercise, which will target the soleus (calf muscle).

To Perform the Exercise: Drive the toes of your bottom foot into the ground and lift your heel up so that it is off the floor as high as you can. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then slowly lower back down. Repeat the exercise a few  times per leg, and then change to the bent knee position and repeat the movement. With the knee bent position, you do not need to raise the heel up quite so high.

Muscles Targeted: Gastrocnemius and Soleus (calf muscles), as well as several stabilizer muscles in the hips, buttocks, and core.

Ways to Increase Intensity: If your balance is exceptional and your looking for a challenge, you can perform this exercise on a soft surface, which will create less stability and more of a challenge for your muscle coordination. You can also add resistance by holding on to weights while performing the movement.

Ways to Decrease Intensity: If this is a challenging exercise for you, you can place the toes of your elevated foot back onto the floor for a little more stability. Think of 90%of your weight being in your bottom foot, but about 10% in the one you just put back down, just helping the movement along as needed.

Common Mistakes: One common mistake is not redistributing your weight to be centered for this exercise. It is so common when a person is told to balance on one foot, that they automatically just pick the other straight up off the ground. If you are standing on both feet, then all of a sudden, one foot is gone, you are going to topple over. Focus on staying up as tall as you can while centering your grounded foot directly underneath your body for best results.

Another common mistake is trying to look down at your foot while doing this movement. Your head should be up tall and your spine erect. This will help maintain balance, and improve posture.

  1.  Ability to perform at least 15 calf raises on each leg.  Note: if need be, place hand gently on something to maintain balance.
  2.  Movement should not be painful


How to do Squats

Quick Description: Standing with feet just outside of hip width apart. Sit back first with the hips and let the knees bend. As you lower down into the squat let the hips and knees open slightly. As you return to standing be sure to push into the floor with the feet. After 5 reps, stay at the bottom of the squat and raise one arm up towards the ceiling, bring it back down, raise the other arm, and then back down. Come up from your squat. Repeat one more time.

Starting Position: Let’s start standing fully erect with your feet hip width or just slightly wider, and your toes pointed directly forward toward 12 o’clock, or just slightly more open.

To Perform the Exercise: Understand that the squat is one of the most powerful, most often used, and most often improperly performed, exercises out there. Follow all of these guidelines, and listen to your body, as small variations may be appropriate for your build or athleticism. First, engaging the right muscle groups is essential, in this case, the hips and buttocks are the primary movers, along with the hamstrings (back of the thigh) and quadriceps (thigh). Start the movement by pushing your hips back toward the wall behind you a few inches, causing you to flex at the hips and put your weight back on your heels. Be sure to not lose neutrality in your spine, your lower back should still have a shallow forward curve, just as if you were standing up. Now, keeping your weight in your heels, sit your hips back and down, like you are sitting in a very little chair that is way back behind you. Note, if you want to make sure your getting this right, you can get a literal chair or stool and perform a squat standing several inches away from it, sitting down, touching the chair very lightly, and then standing back up. As you lower into your squat, your knees should stay open as wide as your feet, and your chest and back should be upright and as tall as you can make them. When you have dropped as low as you can, drive your heels into the ground, squeeze your buttocks and your core, press your knees out, and push your head toward the ceiling as you drive back up to the starting position, finishing with your hips driving forward again and squeezing at the top. Your arm position through this exercise can vary. Keeping your arms out in front of you can help counterbalance the backward movement of your hips, just be sure to still keep your chest and head up as high as you can, your not trying to reach toward the front of the room, just hold your arms out for balance. You can also bend your elbows and keep your arms at your side, or even raise them over head for an added challenge. . You can perform many variations and manipulations on this primary movement, including sitting at the bottom of your squat, raising one arm, then lowering it and raising the other, then standing back up. Perform 6-10 reps with control and focus on good posture and stability.

Muscles Targeted: Glute Complex (buttocks), Hamstrings (back of the thigh), Quadriceps (thigh), and many accessory muscles including core muscles, postural muscles, and muscles in the lower legs and feet.

Ways to Increase Intensity: This primary exercise has dozens and dozens of variations to make it more challenging. One simple technique is to slow down your movements, especially on the way down (eccentric). Perform a slow count of 3 or 4 on the way down, and a count of 1 or 2 on the way up for a simple but effective way of turning up the intensity.

Ways to Decrease Intensity: If squats are challenging for you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. A super simple way of taking some pressure off your legs, knees, hips, or back, is to hold onto a stable object while sitting back into your squat. Examples may include the edge of a counter, the back of a couch, a banister railing, a suspended rope, a low pull-up bar, a strong door knob, etc. Holding this object will allow you to sit back a little more and share some of the stress with your upper body, allowing you the right tension to strengthen your legs and work toward doing unassisted body weight squats. The best objects are easily gripped and stable at about upper belly or chest level.

Common Mistakes: There are many mistakes that can be made with this exercise, I will list the most frequent ones, and note that these mistakes are not always on or off, black or white. Often There are subtle and small variations. You don’t have to be bent over double for it to be wrong. Even a small misalignment in your lower back can cause big problems over time, so always be on the look out for these, even if you are experienced with exercise.

First common mistake is rounding your back and dropping your chest. Though the squat is a full body exercise, engaging many muscles in the upper body in an accessory manner, it is primarily for the legs and buttocks, so we want the upper body to be as neutral and stationary as possible. Your upper body should stay as erect as possible through the entire movement, your core tight, your back neutral and strong. Imagine looking at a person in front of you while you are squatting, whether at the top or bottom, you want to point your face, chest, and belly toward them the entire time.

Another common mistake is not sitting back into the squat. If you miss the first step of pushing your hips back and subsequently not sitting in that imaginary chair way back behind you, you will have a tendency to push your knees forward and your weight into your toes. This puts a lot of pressure in your knees and long term is not biomechanically sound. Your knees can and will move forward slightly, but your weight should remain in your heels, and your knees should not pass your toes.

Another common mistake is allowing your knees to collapse together, whether on the way down (eccentric) or on the way up (concentric). If your knees collapse together, you are getting a better push, but the tension is no longer in your leg muscles, but is being shifted into the ligaments of your knee. Press your knees open as you sit and stand, keeping them to the same width as your hips and feet. If you struggle with this, you can prime those muscles by performing squats with a short elastic band around your knees. The band will try to pull your knees inward, and as you fight to keep the band stretched open, you will strengthen the muscles that externally rotate and abduct your legs.

  1.   Ability to maintain a fairly upright neutral spine.
  2.  Ability to maintain knee tracking/stability centered over feet.
  3.  Ability to maintain balance.
  4.  Ability to come up without weight shifting.
  5.  Movement should not be painful


How to increase Ankle Mobility

Quick Description: Stand with your toes against the base of a wall and slide your knee forward as far as you can, preferably all the way to the wall if you have the mobility, keeping your knee directly over your third toe.

Starting Position: Let’s stand facing toward a wall with one foot forward and the other slightly back and off to the side. Putting the toes of your front foot up to the wall, make sure that your foot is completely perpendicular to the wall, not turned one way or another. Your shoulders, chest, belly, and hips are squared up and not turned to the side. You can place your hands on the wall for support and comfort during this movement.

To Perform the Exercise: Simply slide the knee of your front leg forward, keeping your foot flat and heel in contact with the floor the entire time. Glide your knee forward until you either feel your ankle restrict any more forward movement, or your knee gently makes contact with the wall. Your knee should be directly over the middle toe of your foot, and again, your hips and torso should be square, facing directly toward the wall.

Muscles Targeted: Soleus (the large deep muscle of the lower leg)

Common Mistakes: This is not an exercise in speed or strength, and moving too quickly and not paying attention to your biomechanics is a mistake. Take your time to feel your body’s movements to note any restrictions or pain you may feel. Use this movement in the future to help open up the ankle joint for better movement if you feel your range of motion is limited.

  1.  Ability to move the knee to the wall while tracking over third toe.
  2.  Ability to keep pelvis square to the wall throughout movement.
  3.  Movement should not be painful


How to do Half Kneeling Step Ups

Quick Description: In a half-kneeling position with the right knee down, left foot out on the ground in front of you. Push into the left foot to stand up and place the right foot beside it. Step back with the right foot and slowly lower back to right knee down. Repeat on the same side 10 times. Repeat on the other side. This exercise will challenge balance and coordination while working the hip muscles. 

Starting Position: For this exercise, let’s kneel down on the floor on a firm but padded surface, such as a carpeted floor or a hard surface with a yoga mat.  In this kneeling position, both knees are bent to 90 degrees.  Your front foot is flat on the floor in front of you with your knee up, and your back foot is turned down with the dorsi side, or the top of your foot, on the ground.  Your bottom knee is on the floor directly under your hips, and your hips are directly under your head and shoulders with your arms at your sides. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, and put your hands out in front of you, keeping your elbows at your side. Keeping your arms stationary will increase the demand on your legs. 

To Perform the Exercise: Drive your front foot into the floor as you push the top of your head toward the ceiling to move into a standing position. As you stand all the way up to a fully erect stance, place your back foot lightly on the floor, keeping the majority of your weight on your drive foot. Once there, immediately step that same foot back again and slowly lower down into your starting position. Repeat about 10 times, and then switch legs. 

Muscles Targeted: Glutes (buttocks), Hamstrings (back of thigh), Quadriceps (thigh), and other stabilizer muscles in the hips and core. 

Ways to Increase Intensity: To increase the challenge for this exercise, you can avoid letting your back foot touch the ground as you come up, instead trying to balance through the entire movement. When you get really good at this exercise, you can also add resistance by holding on to weights as you perform your repetitions. 

Ways to Decrease Intensity: There are several ways to decrease the tension of this exercise, including turning your back foot under so that your toes are dug into the floor, which will allow you to push slightly off your back foot to stand up. Another way to make it easier is to have a sturdy object to hold onto to help pull yourself up to your standing position, such as the edge of a kitchen counter or the back of a couch. 

Common Mistakes: One common mistake with this exercise is leaning your chest way forward when standing up. To challenge your leg and hip muscles properly, it is best to keep your torso very erect, trying to keep your head over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. Imagine driving the crown of your head toward the ceiling as you stand up, and this will help keep you aligned. 

Another common mistake is dropping back down to the ground too quickly. Everything about this movement should be steady and controlled, especially on the way back down to the floor. Soft smooth movements should be your goal through the duration of the exercise. 

  1.   Ability to maintain an upright position throughout the movement (not pitching forward).
  2.  Ability to maintain balance throughout the movement.
  3.  Movement should not be painful