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How to Train for 5K Runs

Updated on April 5, 2013

Training for A 5K Run

Training is the key
It seems like more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon of running 5Ks. What a great bandwagon to join! I encourage everyone to run a 5K at least once in their lifetimes. It's a nerve racking experience filled with excitement and fun! With that being said, the people that tend to have the most fun are those that prepare and train for the 5K run. Although it is an easy run when compared to climbing your way to the top of 10K or half-marathon mountain, there should be preparation and training that occur to be competitive.
For most people that are physically active one time or less throughout the week, about 8-12 weeks would be a sufficient amount of time to complete a 5K, running the entire time. It took me about 4 weeks, but my time was extremely slow and I probably could have walked it faster than I jogged. After several weeks, some pounds off my belly, and running extra mileage, my time became better. Below is a sample schedule I created for myself to train for the 5K runs and if you are not used to physical activity, please do not use this schedule. This is something to work up to.

Monday- 1/2 mile warm-up followed by a 3 mile run.
Tuesday- 1/2 mile warm-up followed by a long run- usually 5 miles.
Wednesday- Speedwork of 30-20-10
Thursday- 1/2 mile warm-up followed by 3 mile run.
Friday- Speedwork of 30-20-10
Sat. and Sun.-off

Now, this is a schedule that took me approximately 6 weeks to build up to and even after that I had an injury with my ankle and lower leg muscles that kept me from running for several days. The point with training is to gradually build up and increase your endurance and muscle strength.

Finding Motivation to Train
This if probably the number one reason why people fail to properly train for a 5k run. If you have a family as I do and a full time job, then finding time and energy can be extremely challenging. So, I had to make a list of days and times that would work with me and my family's schedule. When I get home from work I am usually picking up my son from my in-laws and then feeding him, and then my wife returns home from work around 6pm. I could go when she gets home, but then that cuts into a huge part of our time together, so the only other option is the early mornings. I've always been more a of a nightowl but since I started training, I love waking up early and running before most of the neighborhood is even awake. It's fresh and crisp outside at 6am and a new day is beginning. So, while the weather is nice, I'm outside in the mornings. When we head into the fall and winter, I will generally workout at a gym after work which seems to take up less time.
Also, sign up for a race. Signing up and paying fee means accountability! You're not going to waste $20-$30 by not showing up and since most races are professionally timed and competitive, you probably will want to do well. This can be a great motivator.
Losing weight and getting healthy is a great motivator. I have lost over 10 pounds and am working on the final 10 to be where I want. I feel healthy, I have more energy, I feel more positive, I get more accomplished throughout the day and the list can go on and on. I love feeling healthy and fit. It's a great motivator to continue and improving.

Race Day

You've been training for weeks for this day. It's time to put all of your hard work to practice and pony up to your first 5K run. What a day! If you're like me, you probably didn't get much sleep the night before and now it's the morning of the race. You wake up in anticipation and excitement and wonder what you should be doing right before the race. Well, I would encourage you to eat a litle something because your body will be burning extra calories today not only because of the race but also from the adrenaline that will be surging through your body as you start. Eat a bagel with some peanut butter, an egg, or some kind of complex carb that will provide energy. Stay away from foods with lots of sugars and fats. About 20 minutes prior to the race, you should be warming up by doing some stretching and light sprints and jogging to keep your legs warmed up.

Post Race
Make sure when you have completed your journey to stock up on all the free items the sponsors have to offer you! Drink plenty of water even if you don't think you need it because chances are your adrenaline is still pumping after the race and you probably won't notice dehydration right away. Some races offer cut pieces of lime and lemon to suck on or bananas. Take advantage of it all because your body will absorb the greatest amount of nutrients up to 15-20 minutes post race.
After your race, plan another one to sustain your momentum with training. It's east to become addicted and then maybe next season you might try a 10K! Who knows, maybe half-marathon.

Training for your first 5K run is an exciting adventure! If you look at it like a chore, that's exactly what it will be and chances are you won't stick with it. If you're brand new to running or haven't been active in awhile, start out slow. Don't let the success of others bring you down because there will always be someone that is better. Just enjoy the process and have fun at the race. Train, run and have fun and train for the next. Enjoy and happy running!

Training for a 5K Run

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