How to Run a 5k: Training Advice for your First Race

For many, running your first 5k race is a personal fitness goal, a testament to your weight loss program, or a step toward the ultimate goal – the marathon.

Unlike a marathon, which is approximately 8.73 times the distance of a 5k race, this 3 mile run is not difficult to achieve, especially if you are at an average fitness level. By average I mean you regularly exercise, say 3-5 days a week or participate in sports. Therefore, you could run a 5k in less than a month, with little technical training, and finish the race.

So, how much training is really required? Typically an eight week training schedule will get you to a ribbon finish. Training is not a precise science, and you will find as you get comfortable in taking on more challenging races that each person develops his or her own unique training style that works.

Here are 7 expert guidelines gathered from professionals in the business of running:

Guideline #1Start a Journal
As a novice, it is highly recommended that you chart your progress. You will encounter incremental changes in training that will require note-to-self to stay focused; additionally, jottings will provide that feeling of accomplishment, increasing your confidence as you gain agility and endurance.

Guideline #2:  Workout with a Partner/Join a Club
If this is your first time running a 5k, you may want that extra motivation from a partner or consider joining a neighboring runners’ club. There are also several reputable membership programs and forums available on the internet where you can get valuable running tips, and learn of upcoming race events.

Guideline #3: The Importance of Rest
Rest days are vital for recovery, muscle strength, and adaptation to your workout. Recognize it and use it to your advantage.

Guideline #4:Warm up and Cool down
A good warm up before, and cool down after each run should last between 5 and 10 minutes. This will prepare you physically and reduce injuries.

Guideline #5: How to Run
Visualize your form: keep your body upright and lean slightly forward. Relax your shoulders. Maintain a 90 degree to 120 degree elbow bend and drive your elbows back, not forward. With the ball of your feet, push forward, as you run flex your foot so that your toes point toward your shin. Look straight ahead with a slight gaze toward the ground.

Guideline #6: Walk and Run Combination.
Walks are done briskly, and runs are done at a comfortable pace.

Guideline #7Follow this Plan (Modify for individual needs)
8 Week Training Schedule. Note: days not stated are rest days

Goal: 1.5 miles run/walk combination.
Monday, Wednesday, Saturday: run for 30 minutes; walk 5 minutes. Repeat until 1.5 miles reached. 
Sunday: 30 - 60 Minute Walk, only.

Goal: 1.5 miles and 1.75 miles run
Monday: 1.75 m
Wednesday: 1.5 m
Saturday: 1.75 m
Sunday: 35 – 60 Minute Walk

Goal: 1.5 miles and 2 miles run
Monday: 2 m
Wednesday: 1.5 m
Saturday: 2 m
Sunday: 40 – 60 Minute Walk

Goal: 2.25 miles and 1.5 miles run
Monday: 2.25 m
Wednesday: 1.5 m
Saturday: 2.25 m
Sunday: 45 – 60 Minute Walk

Goal: 2 miles and 2.5 miles run
Monday: 2.5 m
Wednesday: 2 m
Saturday: 2.5 m
Sunday: 50 -60 Minute Walk

Goal: 2 miles and 2.75 miles run
Monday: 2.75 m
Wednesday: 2 m
Saturday: 2.75 m
Sunday: 55 – 60 Minute Walk

Goal:  2 miles and 3 miles run
Monday: 3 m
Wednesday: 2 m
Saturday: 3 m
Sunday: 1 hour Walk

Goal: 2 miles and 3 miles run
Mon: 3 m
Wed: 2 m
Sunday: 5-K Race

A quarter mile is added for each progression in the schedule, which is equal to one lap for the great outdoors. Notice that it is all about the mixture: long runs, tempo sessions, and rests. You will realize that it is difficult to measure exact distance for the outdoors, so don’t sweat it; approximate your trail and focus on the run.

For more information, check out your runners’ club on the miles to run and comfortable gears to wear.

Think of the adrenaline rush that comes with your success at the 5k race; it will undoubtedly put a smile on your face and have you going back for more.