Race Day Warm Ups for 5K to Ultra-Marathons

By January 21, 2016Challenge 2016

Warm Up

If you’re running hard or racing, the warm up needs to prepare you for the transition from zero to race effort. Warm up regimens vary greatly based on the distance of the race and your race goal. The following warm up routines will help prepare you for your next hard run or race.

The shorter the race, the more thorough the warm up needs to be. If your goal is to reach a personal best at your local 5K or 10K, you will need to be at race speed from the start. This requires a thorough warm up to prepare you to start at that pace to avoid shocking your system and failure in optimal performance in the race. Improper warm ups can in shorter races can lead to inefficient miles early on in the race.

It’s like driving your car without warming it up after it has been sitting in the parking lot for hours in 10 degree weather. It will take 10-15 minutes for your car to respond efficiently without a warm up and it is quite taxing on the car as well. Your body works the same way.

The longer the race, the shorter the warm up. Here are warm up routines for various race distances and race goals.

  • 5K-10K Warm Up for Runners Who are Competing and Racing Hard
  • To warm up for a 5K or 10K race, start with brisk walking 5 minutes to wake your body up, then run 5-10 minutes, starting out at an easy running pace and incorporating four to six 30-second pick ups at race pace in the last half of the running warm up. If you have any niggling areas that are giving you trouble (like IT band or calf tightness), do some foam rolling (see video in Training Center) with light, short strokes. Perform 2-3 dynamic exercises (Hip Circles, Butt Kickers, Walking Lunges, Legs Swings). Try to finish your warm up as close to the start of the race as possible. This may be easier in smaller races and more challenging in larger ones. If you have to line up earlier, complete the warm up routine and then keep moving in the corral by knee lifts, or running in place. This will allow your body to stay warm, especially on colder days.
  • 5K-10K Warm Up for Runners Who are Participating for Fun Not Speed
    15-20 minutes prior to the race start, take 3 minutes and walk briskly gradually raising your heart rate and circulation to the working muscles. Then run 3-5 minutes at an easy pace and then walk briskly 3-5 more minutes. If you run-walk, alternate running for 1 minute and walking 1 minute for 6 minutes instead of running continuously. Perform foam rolling and dynamic exercises mentioned above. Line up at the start line according to your planned pace. Your body will be warm and ready to go.
  • 10 Mile – Half Marathon Warm Up for Runners Who are Racing
    Walk briskly 5 minutes to wake your body up. For cold weather races, try a hot shower race morning to help warm up your body before you head outside for a speed run or race. Foam roll any tight areas (you can also do this post shower). Run 5 minutes and include a few race pace pick-ups in the later part of the warm up. Perform 2-3 dynamic warm up exercises.
  • 10 Mile – Half Marathon Warm Up for Runners Who are Finishing for Fun
    Warm up should be very minimal if you are trying to finish and earn that medal. The warm shower, foam rolling and 5 minutes of brisk walking and a little easy running for a few minutes should be the most for your warm up. Save your energy for the race course!
  • Marathon+ Warm Up for Runners Who are Racing
    Conserve your energy and minimize your warm up time. The combination of a hot shower, foam rolling, walking briskly and a little light running is plenty to get ready for a marathon or more. There is plenty of time in the marathon to get in to your race pace. Expending a lot of energy in the warm-up can take away from your race performance.
  • Marathon+ Warm Up for Runners Who are Finishing for Fun
    Take a hot shower, foam roll, walk to the start line and conserve your energy for the race. Use the first few miles as the warm up on race day.

Remember the warm up is vital in preventing injuries and assuring optimal race day performance. For shorter races, perform it before the race begins, for longer races like the marathon, use the distance to properly warm up. If you begin to tailor your warm ups to your race and your goals you will begin to realize the benefits in your performance. The warm-up is the easiest thing to leave out and perhaps the most important to ward off injuries, improve performance and assure a pretty finish line photo.

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