Proper Warm up for Your Race: 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, or Marathon

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Pre-race warm up is crucial. The positive effects of a warm up improve your race performance. Each warm up needs to be specific to the upcoming race. In this post you will find a detailed warm-up routine for different race distances (5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon).

Warming up properly

A proper warm-up is divided into two parts:

  • The general part consists of jogging (10-15 minutes) and dynamic stretching exercises.
  • The specific part focuses on running ABC drills like skips, butt kicks, and ankling. Accelerations are also useful before short or middle distance races to get you ready to shift gears. The idea is to start off slowly and steadily and increase your pace until you reach a submaximal sprint (90% of your maximal sprint).

Our tip:

It is important that you plan your warm-up so you finish shortly before the race begins.

Runners warming up for a race

Runners warming up for a race

It all depends on the distance…

Each race distance has its own warm-up routine. Let’s start by looking at the warm-up routine for a 5K race. In this example you can see the structure of a race warm-up routine. You will find more details below on how to adjust the routine for other distances – 10k, half marathon, and marathon.

Example: 5K race warm up

5K races start out fast. Your body has to be ready to perform at full capacity right from the start. The high intensity of 5K races means that you need an extensive warm-up. Start out jogging at a leisurely pace for 10-15 minutes to get your heart rate up and blood flowing to your muscles. Once you’ve broken a sweat, you should perform some dynamic stretching exercises to loosen your muscles and mobilize your joints.

Dynamic stretches (3-5 times per side):

  • Forward lunge: Stand up straight, with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your head up and engage your core. Take a long step forward with your left foot and lower your front thigh until it is parallel with the floor. Your front knee should be directly above your left foot and your back knee should (almost) touch the ground. Push through the front foot back to the starting position and switch sides.

Woman doing a lunge

Woman doing a lunge

  • Lateral lunge (side lunge): Start out in the same position as the forward lunge. With your hands on your hips or in front of you, 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 the whole time. Push through the right heel back to the starting position and switch sides.

Woman doing a side lunge

Woman doing a side lunge

  • Star touch: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. While keeping your legs as straight as possible, reach across your body with your left hand and touch the toes of your right foot. Straighten back up to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Woman doing a star touch

Woman doing a star touch

  • 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.

Woman doing a high knee stretch

Woman doing a high knee stretch

After the general part of the warm-up come some more specific exercises focused on improving your coordination and mobilization before the race.

Running ABC drills

Start each exercise from a slow jog and then perform the specific movements for approx. 5 seconds. Repeat each exercise 2-3 times.

  • Butt kicks: Bend your right knee and kick your right heel up to your butt. As your right leg is coming down, bend your left knee and kick your left heel up to your butt. Keep your back straight and your core engaged. Let your arms swing smoothly at your sides.
  • Skips: Jump off your right leg while lifting your left thigh until it is parallel with the ground. Keep your center of gravity slightly forward and do not lean back. You can control the intensity of this activity by how high your raise your knee.
  • Ankling: Push off from your toes and lift your heel. Take a short step, making sure to land on your toes. Your heel should barely make contact with the ground before bouncing up. Keep your back straight and your core engaged. Let your arms swing smoothly at your sides.

The final part of your warm-up is devoted to activating your muscles. Accelerations are perfect for this, but try to keep them short. If done too long, these high-intensity bursts of speed can sap your strength and leave you feeling tired before a race.

Accelerations

Start off once again from a slow jog and gradually increase speed until you reach a submaximal sprint (90% of your maximal sprint). A distance of 60 m should be sufficient. Do 3 or 4 accelerations with at least one minute of active recovery (jogging) between accelerations.

Important:

Remember to keep warming up until just a few minutes before the race – otherwise, you run the risk of your muscles getting cold.

Every warm-up, no matter what the distance, should include jogging, dynamic stretching and running ABC drills. While mainly used for shorter races, accelerations can also help half-marathon and marathon runners warm up before a race. However, there are differing opinions on this, so every runner should make up his or her own mind on the usefulness of accelerations before half-marathons and marathons.

Woman warming up for a race

Woman warming up for a race

How to adjust the warm-up routine for other distances

The list below compares the warm-up routine for a 5K race with that of a 10K, a half-marathon and a marathon in terms of time and intensity.

General part (jogging and dynamic stretching exercises):

  • 5K race: 15 20 min
  • 10K race: 10 15 min
  • Half-marathon: 10 min
  • Marathon: 5 10 min

Specific part (running ABC drills and accelerations):

  • 5K race: 10 min / 3 – 4 x 60m
  • 10K race: 5 – 10 min / 2 – 3 x 60m
  • Half-marathon: 5 min / 1 – 2 x 60m
  • Marathon: 5 min / 0 – 1 x 60m

Our tip:

If you break a sweat, you can be pretty sure that you are properly warmed up. However, always make sure to take the air temperature, humidity and the intensity of your warm-up into consideration.

Need a training plan for your next race? 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon training plans are available in the Runtastic app!

What to do after the race? Find out what is the best way to recover and regenerate after your running race.

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