by Steve Sisson, founder of Rogue Training System's and Head Coach
It is essential to get in a proper warm-up before a 5K race. This is due, not only to the race’s brevity, but also to the fact that if you run the race properly, you will be running at 100% of your aerobic capacity. You don’t want to just jump into this kind of effort cold since you won’t be able to maintain proper effort throughout the race. You will need to wear more clothes than usual to warm-up effectively. Even in the warmest weather, you should consider wearing track pants & a long-sleeve shirt to ensure get everything warm. Pack all the items you think you’ll need (lip balm, body glide, gum, sunglasses, toilet paper, dry clothes & small towel, etc.) in a small warm-up bag. It’s always good to have an extra singlet or tech tee in case you find the need to change.
Below is an optimal warm-up protocol:
1. After finding parking & start line, find a comfortable place to settle. Be sure you have everything you need before the start RIGHT NOW so you don’t run around freaking out pins for your race # or getting your chip. You need to have all this handled before you relax. You should be resting until 45 minutes before start time. So drop your warm-up bag & relax. Visualize the first mile & how you will run a comfortable, even-paced first mile.
2. 45 minutes to race time… get your jog on!!! You should plan on taking a full 20 minutes to get warm. This is why it’s recommended to wear long pants & long-sleeved shirt. Jog easily for 10 minutes; do not worry about distance just base it on time. After 10 minutes of easy jogging, run 2-3 one minute build-ups into your 5K pace. If you are good at sensing pace you should be able to hit this on the 1st or 2nd try if you aren’t do 3 build ups but no more. Complete your 20 min warm-up at an easy relaxed pace.
3. Get back to your bag & stretch. Nothing too ballistic, just work through the ranges of motion in the major muscle groups: shoulders, hamstrings, quads, calves, Achilles, etc. This should take 5 minutes, no more.
4. Find an even, open area & roll quickly through the following drills for approximately the same distance we do before the workouts:
a. Side to Side
c. Quick Skips
d. High Knees + Strides
5. You know have 15 minutes before start time. Take care of final clothing, rest room issues. Then take off your warm-up stuff & get your singlet, race top on & move to the start line.
6. You should be at the start line 10 minutes before start time. Do 3-4 strides at just faster than 5K pace, walking between each. This is to keep range of motion & to keep you warm. DO NOT LOSE YOUR SWEAT. You really want to stay warm.
7. Move yourself into your start position 5 minutes prior to start. Stay warm & relaxed. Jump in place; keep your legs relaxed, anything to stay warm before the gun sounds.
The most important part of the race is the first 800 meters. DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST. Forget about everyone else. And in case it needs to be said again… forget about everyone else! They are going to be stupid & go out too fast, believe me, they will. Trust your pace.
1. Establish a rhythm early. Since you know your goal time & pace you should be able to settle relatively quickly. No matter how good you feel or bad you feel get into your race pace ASAP. There are two reasons for this: 1) to minimize the development of lactic acid early in the race. 2) to keep the mental attitude positive. The better you feel the better you will race.
2. Maintain race pace through the 2 mile marker. This usually means settling into the early rhythm by the 800 meter point & checking your split at 1 mile to ensure you haven’t picked it up too much or slowed down. If you find you have done either of these, don’t react rashly. Just gradually slow or speed up. Do not make any drastic moves. Just smoothly adjust. Maintain this pace through the 2 mile marker.
3. Make a long, sustained push to the finish. You should not rely upon a kick in a 5K race. There are going to be a bunch of bozos who went out too fast & died but who will suddenly summon a blazing kick when they smell the finish line. You need to put these people away early. When you cross the 2 mile marker begin to accelerate slowly & gradually over about 800 meters. This will be the hardest part of the race. YOU CAN PUSH THE PACE…trust me. Be sure it is a gradual build & nothing too explosive. At this point, will about 1K to go you will be at the top speed you feel you can maintain through the finish line. Be tough & hold on! You can do it! As you begin to crest the South 1st St. bridge slowly build up to close to maximum speed. As you descend South First, you should be running all out - all the way through the finish line. This is where all the posers will be putting on the jets. Don’t worry about them…they ran a stupid race, you just PR’ed!
The Cool Down It is very important that you do a minimum of 10 minutes cool down. You need to work the lactic acid out of your legs.