How To Train for Your First 5k Run

Getting into Running

Athlete running

Running is a great form of exercise. It takes effort and persistence during the training, but once you get used to the routine and your body gets adjusted to the exercise, it's pure bliss. It's rewarding and incredibly beneficial. You will feel the energy throughout your body, and all your worries will vanish. Stick to the plan and don't give up easily, and you have your ticket to a successful 5k race.

Step 1

Sign up for a 5k race

The best thing to get you started is signing up for a race. There is always plenty of choice, especially in the summer, and it's a great way of staying motivated. With a specific date in mind you will find it easier to plan and stick to your training. You should try to book one that is at least six weeks away. Some people prefer to have running buddies. Check with your friends to see if they would be willing to embark on this challenge with you. However, if no one is in the mood, don't let this deviate you from your objective. Training on your own might be harder than training with a friend, but, nevertheless, the rewards will be immeasurable.

Step 2

Get the gear: the right clothes, trainers, and pedometer

You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to train: comfy joggers or shorts and the old t-shirt will do. There are shops specialized in running gear, and you might prefer to get clothes specially designed to run. Always opt for several layers of clothes, the temperature may vary during your training sessions, and having the body too warm will affect your performance. The trainers or running shoes must be carefully chosen, because they give your body support and protect your joints from injury, so make sure you have an acceptable pair. Again, going to running or sports shops might be a good idea.

While you are picking your trainers you should consider buying a pedometer, which is designed to count how many steps you take.  Choose one that calculates distance and speed, helping you to keep track of your training.

Step 3

Define your routine and place of training

Now it's time to plan your training. You should aim to train three times a week for 30-35 minutes at a time. If you can't manage these three times a week, you might need more than six weeks to complete your training.

Begin by defining which days will be your training days, always allowing at least one day for resting, which is essential for your improvement. Ideally, you should train in a park, mainly because this is where most of the races are. If you choose to practice on a treadmill be prepared: once you take it outside you will find it harder, so if this is the only option for you, try to train in a park at least for the last week.

Step 4

Stretching and listening to your body

Before and after every session you must stretch the muscles that will be used the most: calves, hamstrings and quadriceps. Each stretch must be held for 20 seconds to be effective. Stretching is very important to enable your muscles to work at maximum efficiency levels, prevent injuries and reduce next day soreness.

A good way of checking your cardiovascular condition throughout the training is the speak test. As long as you are able to chat with a friend, or sing a song if you are on your own, your cardiovascular condition is good and you can keep going. If you reach a point where you cannot talk or you experience shortness of breath, it's time to reduce the pace. This is the way your body has of telling you to slow down, so do it. Walk for a minute or so, then go back to jogging again and see how it feels, you should have recovered. It's a good measure to visit your doctor before starting to exercise, particularly if you haven't been exercising lately.

Step 5

First and second weeks: getting started

The first six sessions of training will help you to get your body used to the routine. In the first week your aim is to walk briskly, non-stop, for 20 minutes per session. In the second week, increase to 30 minutes.

Week 1      day 1, 2 and 3: brisk walk - 20 minutes

Week 2      day 1, 2 and 3: brisk walk - 30 minutes

Step 6

Third week: walking and jogging

Now the excitement really begins! During this week your aim is to include short periods of jogging in your session. Walk for the first five minutes, then switch to an easy jog. You must always complete 30 minutes: don't go too fast. With time you will learn your pace. Jog for at least one minute and go back to the brisk walk. After five minutes it's one-minute jogging time again. Keep this pattern until you reach 30 minutes. If it feels easy, increase your jogging time slightly for a maximum of five minutes at a time.

Week 3      day 1,2 and 3:   brisk walk - 5 minutes

                                          jog - 1 minute

                                          (repeat until you reach 30 minutes)

Step 7

Fourth and fifth weeks: increasing the jogging time

During these two weeks you should increase the jogging time gradually and reduce the walking time. This is how it goes:

Week 4      day 1:   brisk walk - 5 minutes

                             jog - 3 minutes

                             (repeat until you reach 30 minutes)

                  day 2:   brisk walk - 5 minutes

                              jog - 5 minutes

                              (repeat until you reach 30 minutes)

                  day 3:   brisk walk - 3 minutes

                              jog - 5 minutes

                              (repeat until you reach 30 minutes)

Week 5      day 1:   brisk walk - 3 minutes

                             jog - 7 minutes

                             (repeat 3 times)

                  day 2:  brisk walk - 3 minutes

                              jog - 8 minutes

                              (repeat 3 times)

                  day 3:   brisk walk - 1 minute

                              jog - 10 minutes

                              (repeat three times)

Step 8

Sixth week: reaching the target

This is the most rewarding week of all, you finally get to jog non-stop. On the first day, start walking briskly for one minute to warm up, and switch to jogging. You may feel like giving up and stopping or switching back to the brisk walk, but don't give up! Your body will only want to do it because that's how you have trained over the last few weeks. It takes a couple of sessions for you to get used to the new routine. On the second session of the week start with an easy jog (slower than what you've been doing) straight away and after one minute increase the pace.

Week 6      day 1:   brisk walk - 1 minute

                             jog - 30 minutes

                 day 2:  easy jog - 1 minutes

                             jog - 30 minutes

                  day 3: easy jog - 1 minutes

                             jog - 30 minutes

If you have a pedometer you will know the distance you are covering in these 30 minutes. If it's less than 5k, then try to increase the time or, if you feel strong enough, increase your pace.

Step 9

Stick to the training

After six weeks you will be able to jog for 30-35 minutes non-stop. At a nice pace this should account for 5k. It is important to keep the same pattern from week 6 until the day of the race. Always allow one day to rest before the race so your body is not overloaded. Try to stick to the training routine and you will succeed!

Step 10

On the day of the race

The best advice is not to do anything different, have a good breakfast or a good snack if the race is in the afternoon or evening, and drink water to keep your body hydrated. It is very common to get enthusiastic in the beginning of the race and follow your fellow runners at a faster pace than what you are used to. Try not to fall into this trap, you won't go far! Have your pedometer and check if you are at your own pace.

The day of the race is great, the atmosphere is brilliant and you will want to do it again and again! That's when the reward of all your training comes to life. Enjoy!


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