How to Get in Shape for Your First 5K (Part 1)

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Part I: Training Plan

Running You First 5k

Running is known for being a great way to get in shape and sustain a healthy life style. Like most exercise it is a great way to relieve stress and reconnect with your body and your thoughts. Whether you want to live a more active lifestyle and improve your health, or are seeking a new challenge, jumping into running regularly and competitively is a fun way to push your body and commit yourself to a goal. Yet running is an intense form of exercise, so for those new to the sport it can easily seem daunting. If you are a rookie runner, a 5k is a great way to challenge yourself. A 5k run is about 3.2 miles long, which is a good length to work up to for new runners. Yet for people who have not ran before, how to prepare and train for your first race may seem uncertain. Making the decision to dedicate yourself to a race is the first step, but to further inspire you, here is some advice from experienced runners when it comes to running your first 5k.

Developing Your Training Plan

The Basic Considerations

When planning to partake in a big competition or event, training is important for any athlete, especially for new runners. Though the concept of running is fairly simple, and it is easy to step out of your door and start running, it is important to prepare yourself and your body for a strenuous run through practice and training. If you are new to running, your body is not accustomed to the physical strain of a long run. Hence it is important to gradually condition it through developing a training schedule.

There are many diverse training plans out there for new runners, all of which you can customize to your body and lifestyle. Yet in general, here are a few things to keep in mind.  Firstly, start off with a light, easy run and gradually work your way up. Professional running coach Cory Smith recommends starting by “start by stepping out the door a few times per week… Run slow, and walk is needed”.  Start off by going on a short 10 or 15 minute run and once you feel comfortable, increase the time of your run. He also suggests cross-training for new runners, which involves adding some variety to your training routine by doing different types of exercises, such as cycling or the elliptical machine.

The Run-Walk Method

Another great technique is the run-walk method. This method involves taking short walking breaks during your runs. Yet the key is not to walk when you are tired, but rather walk when you are not yet worn out. Adding short walking intervals allows your muscles a chance to recover without halting your work out. Lastly, it is always important to build in “off” days into your training schedule. Make sure to have at least one day of rest every week to give your body time to recover and recharge.

Give it Time

The most important thing to keep in mind when developing a training plan is time. If you have never run before and do not lead an active life style, then make sure to give yourself enough time to properly train and condition your body before your first race. Running and endurance coach Carl Leivers believes “the more time, the better. The biggest mistake I see runners make is increasing their mileage too quickly. I think 12 weeks is doable for most people, but you’ll probably enjoy it more if you give yourself more time”.

Running is a great sport that is easy for anyone to get involved with. Running a 5k is a great way for new runners to challenge themselves and apply their hard work. Running your first race may seem daunting, but as you have read here it is made much easier if you plan and train ahead of time. Happy running!

Carl is a USATF Level 2 Endurance Coach in Atlanta, Georgia. He specializes in helping runners find a routine and approach that works with the rest of their life so that it is sustainable and fun. His biggest piece of advice is to take everything in moderation. To find out more about Carl, visit his website at

Cory is the founder and head coach of Run Your Personal Best. He is located in Santa Barbara, California. His biggest piece of advice to new runners is “You can’t force fitness, you must let it come naturally.” To find out more about Cory visit and mention this article for 2 weeks free coaching.