A warm up is integral to any race – whether you’re running a 5k, 10k or half marathon. It’s important to warm up properly before a 5k run to avoid injury and get you ready for the run ahead.
The warm up has one key objective: to prevent injury and to get your heart rate up and blood flowing to your muscles. A good warm up should leave you energised but not tired. If you push it too hard you may risk injury or poor performance during your race.
There are many versions of warm ups out there depending on race duration, your fitness levels and running experience.
At its core, however, a proper warm up consists of two main parts: jogging to get your heart racing and dynamic stretches to loosen your muscles.
You can also include running drills and accelerations in this (which I explain more about below).
Many sources online have highlighted the benefits of a dynamic warm up over a static warm up.
In this blog post, I’d like to share some top tips when doing a warm up properly before a 5k run.
How to warm up properly before a 5k run
Think about timing
A warm up for a 5k race can last anywhere between 5-20 minutes depending on your fitness levels and how fast you’re planning to run your race.
If you’re planning to pace yourself and run at a steady pace (so somewhere between 10-12 minutes per mile), I suggest you dedicate about 5-10 minutes before the start of your race.
If you’re planning a faster race (so anywhere between 7-10 minutes per mile), I suggest you set aside about 10-20 minutes before your race for the warm up.
Check out my post on how to pace your run for more information and tips on pacing.
Consider the weather
The weather is a factor when planning your warm up.
In the winter months it’s important to keep your body moving to prevent you from getting cold. During cooler temperatures, your muscles will take longer to warm up.
Your warm up should focus on getting your heart racing and blood pumping around your body to keep you warm.
Try to keep on your feet as much as possible and try not to stand still for too long.
Start out with a jog
Jogging is an integral part of any warm up – whether you’re running a 5k or half marathon.
Start with a steady jog at a leisurely pace for 5-10 minutes to get your heart racing.
Many runners find themselves jogging to the start of a race which can be classified as a warm up.
Don’t feel you have to double up on the jogging when you arrive at the race venue as you may risk tiring yourself out before you’ve even started the race.
Experiment with some dynamic stretches
Dynamic stretching is a great way to loosen your muscles before a race.
It is slightly different from static stretching – it isn’t about holding a stretch but rather taking your body through ranges of motion that will better prepare you for your run.
A good rule to follow is dynamic stretching for warm up and static stretching for cool down.
Here are some good dynamic stretches to try before a 5k run:
Stand up straight and take a long step forward.
Lower your front thigh until it is parallel with the floor. Your front knee should be directly above your right foot and your back knee should almost touch the ground.
Push through the front foot back to the starting position and switch sides.
Stand up straight and put your hands on your hips.
Step to the side with your right foot, push back with your hips and bend your right knee. Lower down until your right thigh is parallel with the floor.
Your feet should be facing forward. Push through the right heel back to the starting position and switch sides.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
While keeping your legs as straight as possible, reach across your body with your right hand and touch the toes of your left foot.
Straighten back up to the starting position and repeat on the right side.
Standing knee-to-chest stretch
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your right knee, interlace your fingers under your knee and pull your knee towards your chest.
Keep your core engaged and do not lean back. Lower your right leg to the starting position and repeat on the left side.
Forward leg swings
Find something to hold onto whilst you do this as you may (like me) stuggle to find your balance.
Stand with feet hip width apart. Keep one leg stationary and slowly swing the opposite leg forward and backward in a single, smooth movement.
Do 10-12 leg swings then switch sides and repeat the set on the other leg.
Try some running drills
Another good way to get your heart racing is to try some running drills.
These can be mixed in with the jogging part of the warm up. I like to sprinkle a few of these exercises in every few minutes to mix things up a bit.
Some of my favourite drills include: butt kicks, fast feet, carioca, skipping and side to sides.
Don’t forget your arms here, especially if you struggle to maintain proper arm swing during your run.
Try some arm swing drills by pumping your arms whilst sitting or standing. The key is to keep your arms at a 90 degree angle from the elbow and propel from your shoulders instead of your elbows.
You’ll also want to make sure your arms brush lightly against your sides, and not across the centre line of your torso.
Accelerating is great for getting you ready for a 5k race. It can also work for longer races like a 10k or half marathon.
Whilst jogging, gradually increase your speed until you reach a sprint at 90% effort.
A distance of about 60 metres should be sufficient – you don’t want to maintain a sprint for much longer before the race or will you risk tiring yourself out.
You may want to include a few strides in your warm up as these are great to get your heart racing and your body mobilised before a run.