How to warm up before running a 5K

Let me ask you guys a question – What do you do to warm up before running a 5k race?

I am only asking because everyone I see at running events or races seem to do something different.

So what about you?

Do you do warm up exercises before running, do you have a specific pre-race warm up or ritual. Or do you just get going and count the first 10 minutes running as your warm up.

Regardless of what method you use, we’ve come to realise that warming up before running is a vital part of every athlete’s routine.

But do you know why? And for that matter are you doing it correctly?

That’s why we’ve decided to simplify all the complexities and help all runners by covering these topics:

  • What is a warm up?
  • How to warm up before running a 5K race
  • How to do a simple 10 minute warm up for running
  • And should you do a cool down

What is a Warm Up?

I want you to imagine that your body is like a car, and you’ve been parked outside in the cold for hours. Do you think you could turn on the ignition and go from 0-60mph in 4 seconds?

You could try, but I am sure a car mechanic would tell you that you’re about to do some damage to your vehicle. 

And that is exactly how our bodies work. If you don’t prepare your body for the stresses of physical activity it will most certainly lead to a breakdown. I.e. Injuries.

Warming up is any activity that serves as the physical and or mental preparation before exercise or a sporting event. It’s a crucial part of your exercise routine as it prepares your body to manage the stresses of prolonged physical activity, such as running 5km.

Note: Warm ups are meant to prepare not exhaust or fatigue your body. So pay careful attention to factors such as your heart rate and breathing efficiency during your warm up. Similarly, an effective warm up can be as short as 3 minutes and as long as 12, depending on the activity. Anything longer or shorter in duration can hamper your performance as you will not be fully prepared or you will find yourself pre-exhausted.

How to warm up before running a 5K race

How to warm up before running a 5K

Let’s get into some specifics about what you need to do for warming up before your run. And how you should be going about it.

When it comes to a warm up there are two main objectives that we want to achieve:

1. Increasing your overall body temperature

The reason we need to increase our overall body temperature is actually pretty simple:
To pump more oxygen rich blood to your extremities.

By doing a series of light to moderate intensity physical movements, you will raise your heart rate. And an elevated heart rate means more oxygenated blood being pumped through your body.

Which leads into next point…

2. Activating your muscles and joints

By pumping more oxygen rich blood to your body’s extremities, you will be helping your muscles and joints get activated. This will essentially get your body physically prepared for the activity you’re about to participate in, as activated muscles and joints lead to better performances.

But here is the thing, how many times have you stood at the finish line, 5 mins before your run starts. You turn to your left and you see the person next to you busy stretching.

So you instinctively start doing one or two stretches. STOP! 

No seriously, you need to stop stretching before you run. You see, despite popular opinions stretching before a run is not beneficial.

Research is continually providing us with significant evidence that stretching before physical activity has little to no benefits. In fact, research suggests that it actually hampers performance. 

Yes, that’s correct stretching as a warm up before running a 5km is bad for you. Who would’ve thought!

So if you’re not supposed to stretch before running, what are we supposed to be doing? 

Well, you should stretch. I know, I know, we just said not to stretch. But there is an explanation.

We’re not talking about conventional static stretching as you know it. We’re talking about dynamic stretching.

In layman’s terms, dynamic stretching involves actual movement of the body, while conventional stretching is usually more static.

And the more you move the better you will ultimately perform.

So by utilising dynamic stretching as part of your 10 minutes warming up or your specific pre race warm up, you’re putting yourself in the best position to dominate your next run.

How to do an easy and effective 10 minute warm up before a run

How to do a 10 minute warm up before race

When it comes to having a specific pre-race warm up there is a basic checklist of things you need to cover, all in just 10 minutes.

This includes activating your: 

  • Deep foot and calf muscles
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Core and lower back

And you will need to mobilise your:

  • Ankle joints
  • Knees
  • Hips (adductors and abductors) 
  • Lumbar and thoracic spine

Wait, what?

All of that in just 10 minutes? Yep and this is how it’s going to go down.

This is our in house sport scientists’ warm up routine and we are going to explain it to you in his words.

When it comes to warming up I use the same sequence of exercises for myself and my athletes. It’s actually quite simple, perform each movement for 20 seconds and rest for 20 second, for a total of 3 rounds

Here are the list of exercises:

  • 5m toe walks-heel walks (Arms raised directly above your head)
  • Walking lunges with torso twists
  • Walking Supermans
  • Frog squats
  • Hamstring walks/squats

5 exercises done for 20 seconds on and 20s off for a total of 3 rounds will tally up to a final time stamp of 9 minutes and 40 seconds (there is an extra 20 seconds in there for you to catch your breath).

These exercises are the ideal combination of movements that both activate and mobilise all the muscles and joints you will be using during your run.

Should you do a cool down?

Should you cool down after running a 5K

Okay, so we’ve covered the warm up exercises before running.

What about after your run?

If there is a specific pre-race warm up surely there should be a set of cool down exercises.

Well, not necessarily, because everyone ultimately has their own specific preference of how they cool down after a race. Some people do cryotherapy or self myofascial release (foam rolling).

While some people do compression machines or lower body massage and some of you would just love an ice cold drink at the finish line. 

Scientific research indicates that the easiest and most cost effective method to cool down is static stretching. As we mentioned earlier dynamic stretches are better before your run, but static stretches are a perfect way to cool down after your race.

They are easy to do, they can be performed almost anywhere and they don’t cost you a cent. They might taste as nice as a cold brew but they get the job done.


When it’s all said and done, how you warm up and cool down is completely down to your own personal preference. Whether you do a 10 minute running warm up or just start running after the gun sounds off.

How and what you do is completely up to you.

However, we do advise you incorporate both a warm up and cool down into your pre and post race routine. Having a specific pre-race warm up will also aid in your mental preparation before your event, increasing your odds of performing well.

Similarly having a thorough post run cool down protocol can significantly aid in injury prevention which will be ensuring the longevity of your running career.

But at the end of the day it’s actually very simple, when it comes to the ideal warm up before running a 5km…

Just move a little before to get the heart rate up and stretch a little after to get the muscles to relax. Do that and everything will be ay-okay!


Are Warmups Necessary?

No. But they are highly recommended. Warm ups prepare your body for the stresses of running for a prolonged period of time and prevent injuries or chronic overuse conditions such as plantar fasciitis or tendonitis.

What happens if you don't warm up before running?

You increase your chances of getting injured significantly.

How long before a race should you warm up?

Typically 5-10 minutes before you start the race. Minimum 3 minutes and maximum 12-15 minutes.

Does warm up improve performance?

Yes. Warming up improves both mental and physical performance by getting your mind and body race ready.


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