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The first thing to change if you want to run a faster 5k

Updated: May 14, 2022

Let’s be honest we all love seeing that text or email come through from parkrun saying ‘Congrats on your NEW PB!’.

There are many many things you can do to improve your 5k running times, some take time to see progression and others things can give instant results!

There is one thing I nearly always get my clients to change….


In fact it’s the reason I started coaching, seeing people stand around and chat at the start of parkrun (which don’t get me wrong, being sociable and being part of the community are some of the main reasons we all go to parkrun), but at the end people were so focussed on their times and how they did!

It made me think if their warm up is so poor or non-existent what else in their training approach could be wrong… hence my coaching journey started!

Anyway I digress…

A warm-up has multiple purposes. From a performance perspective i.e. when you are trying to get a faster time, you want a warm up that is going to prepare you specifically for that purpose!

A good warm up is also mental preparation from what you are about to do.

The two physical areas I typically recommend are warmed up well:

  1. The cardio vascular and respiratory system

  2. The musculoskeletal system

Let’s take each in turn in the context of a 5k and more specifically if you are trying learn how to get a faster 5k.

The Cardiovascular and Respiratory system:

Basically the lungs and heart, so we need to get them from your normal, rested state ready for the 5k.

We need to build up the intensity, I’d start with a walk and light jog, if you’ve got a heart rate monitor you should be able to see you heart rate increasing nicely. After a 5-10 minute walk/jog, I would then do the stretches discussed in the musculoskeletal system below.

Following that I come back to the cardio warm up and start to build in a bit of intensity, I would recommend getting back into a jog and then increasing pace, I’d do a few 30 second or 1 minute intervals, with a 30 seconds to a minute rest in between, these shouldn’t be flat out but a good working pace, you may want to go longer depending on how your body feels, ideally we want to get your heart rate up to that of your typical average for that run.

Following this, give yourself a few minutes recovery and you are ready to go!

The Musculoskeletal system:

The musculoskeletal system is basically your body, in particular we want to warm up the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints that we are about to put through their paces in the 5k!

For this the cardio vascular warm up will help massively, the light jogs and intervals serve both purposes but also we want to do some specific stretches.

Before a run we should always warm up dynamically, this means with movement. As compared to statically after a run, without movement, typically when we picture stretching it’s normally the latter!

So what does dynamic stretching look like? Anything that stretches a muscle through movement, so you can do a traditional stretch while keeping moving or adding a bit of bounce or do other movements that are already dynamic, legs swings, ‘shoowing the chickens’ (or picking up the daises, if you’re vegetarian / vegan 🤣), calf raises, squats, lunges!

How long before the start should you do a warm up:

The key here is more how long before the run should your warm up end, this is a bit of personal preference, for me for a 5k, 3-5 mins I feel is good! I wouldn’t be going much longer than 10 mins as you’ll lose some of the benefit!

How long should a warm up take:

Not long, I’d say a minimum of 10 mins in total, personally I like 15 mins as feel really ready then!


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