How To Train For A 5k: 3 Steps For Success

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Want to make running part of your life but not sure how to train for a 5k? Lucky for you there are tons of great training tips and running plans out there for you to choose from. As a fellow runner, I can’t recommend the sport more highly. Running is cheap, you don’t need any fancy gym equipment or memberships to do it, and it will improve your health and make you feel great. For anyone wondering how to start running, here are my 3 steps for success in training for your first 5k:

1. Make A Plan

Successful training, especially for your first race, really depends on successful planning. Before you sign up for your race, make sure you’ll have enough time to train before race day – 6 to 8 weeks, depending on how intensely you want to train. Once you sign up, it’s time to create your running plan. 

If you’ve never run before, I recommend using a plan like Hal Higdon’s that shows you how to start running by beginning with run/walking. This type of plan has you starting by running and walking (1 min run, 2 min walk) for 30 minutes at a time, and gradually increasing the running portion until you can run the whole 30 minutes.

If you have done some running, but never trained for a race before, you might try a more jump-started training plan like this one from, which shows you how to train for a 5k in 6 weeks. When it comes to running for beginners, running experts recommend thinking about your training in terms of minutes instead of miles. For instance, go out with the goal of running for 20 minutes continuously, not for 2 miles.

2. Gear Up

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Running is one of the cheapest sports you could possibly choose, so there’s no reason not to spend the few dollars to get the right gear. The most important piece of running equipment you need (other than your legs) is a good pair of running shoes. As a fellow runner, I would recommend Asics, Mizuno, or Saucony shoes. I have always had good luck with these brands, and they’re not too expensive if you buy them online with a coupon or promo code.

It’s also a good idea to shell out a little cash to get some good running clothes. Imagine you go on your first run in some old gym shorts from high school, and come home chafed and uncomfortable – you’re probably not going to want to go out on the second training run, or any of the others. Comfortable, breathable shorts, pants, and shirts can make all the difference for having a good run. As I wrote about in my article about marathon training, I recommend Nike running apparel. It’s comfortable, high quality, and extremely durable. I stocked up on Nike shorts and sport bras a few years ago, and I still haven’t had to buy new ones (and I run nearly every day).

If you’re really unsure of what to get, you might check out your local specialty running store. They usually have experts on hand that can recommend the right shoes and clothes for your needs.

3. Train & Rest

The next step for success is, of course, getting out there and doing your runs. Schedule your runs like appointments, and do them when you planned to do them – this will help make your training a habit. The advice I’ve found most helpful for how to start running even when I don’t feel like it is: First put on your running clothes and shoes. Once you’re dressed, decide if you really don’t feel like running. Chances are, once you’re all dressed and ready to go, you’ll feel like you may as well get out there and do your run!

Pairing up with a buddy is also a good way to stay motivated to stick to your training plan. Have a friend who’s also thinking of doing a 5k? Pair up and train together. That way, you’ll each be accountable to the other for your training.

Good training isn’t just about the time you spend running, it’s also about the time you spend letting your body recover. If your training plan calls for a rest day, by all means rest. If your plan calls for cross training, then don’t go crazy – take a bike ride, walk the dog, or do some yoga. It also helps to make sure you’re getting enough sleep during your training, and especially on the night before your race.

When race day arrives, make sure to get to the course early so you have time to park, get organized, and use the restroom. Then just get yourself to the start line and start running! Your training will take care of the rest. Most important of all, enjoy the race!

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