Your first 5K: How to train step by step
Use these tips to help get yourself race-day ready:
Would you like to get in better shape? Maybe walk or run more regularly?
Working toward a goal — like training for your first 5K — can be a great motivator.
Daunted by the distance? Don’t be. With time and training, even beginners can get in on the fun of a 5K, a doable 3.1 miles.
Depending on their current fitness level, some people can prepare to run a 5K in a few weeks. If you choose to walk — or do a mix of walking and running — you may be ready in a matter of weeks too. If it takes longer to feel prepared, that’s OK. You’ll be getting more fit in the process.
Start here: 5 steps to your first 5K
Set your sights on the finish line — and get off to a sure and safe start with these tips:
1. Begin at a comfortable level. Maybe you’re excited to get started. But don’t let your eagerness lead to overdoing it. Aim to gradually build up your time and distance — without getting injured or burned out.
For example, as a starting point, you might be confident walking or jogging for 20 minutes, three or four times a week. You could also try intervals — mixing walking with short stretches of jogging or running.
A word of caution: If you haven’t been getting regular exercise or have a health condition or injury, talk with your doctor. Make sure it’s safe to increase your activity level.
2. Step it up steadily. As a general rule, increase your distance or time by about 10 to 15 percent each week — no more than that. For example, if you’re already jogging for 20 minutes, you’d add on another two to three minutes the next week.
Here’s what your schedule might look like:
Mondays and Fridays: Mondays and Fridays are rest days. Rest is critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts, so don’t skip your rest days. You’ll also get mentally burned out if you run every day with no breaks.
Each week, you’ll increase your runs by a quarter mile, which is a lap on most outdoor tracks.
3. Schedule it. Make your 5K training a priority by putting it on your calendar. Try mixing in other moves, such as cycling, swimming and strength training. And take at least one day off each week to let your body rest. This can help you balance your routine and avoid overuse injuries.
4. Record and reward. Track your progress — and build in healthy incentives. For instance, you might treat yourself to new running shorts when you complete two weeks of training.
5. Enjoy the journey. Think of this time as something you get to do for yourself — rather than a chore. Finding a friend or family member to train with can help add to the fun.