How to Train for a 5K

Posted Nov 2, 2011 | Posted in Fitness & Nutrition

Running a 5K (3.1 miles) is an excellent activity for new and seasoned runners alike. The group mentality and personal challenge will be motivational, fulfilling and enjoyable. Training for a race should be a gradual process that’s as enjoyable as it is challenging. Watch your body transform, and enjoy a newfound sense of physical fitness. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, there are a few simple ways to get yourself 5K ready!


Registration (Motivation)

Registering for a race will serve as your motivation to get in shape and keep your training consistent. The difference between exercising and training for an event is simple: when you’re training, every workout is purposeful. This sense of goal-oriented purpose means you’ll be less likely to miss a workout, and it will ultimately help you reach your designated target.

Register now for the Johnston Health Champions 5K on May 3! Proceeds will benefit the Johnston Health Angel Fund, supporting cancer patients who are going through financial hardships. 


Essential running attire includes supportive, well-fitting running shoes, technical-wicking socks and a sport watch. Specialty running stores will be best for finding shoes that fit properly. They should feel comfortable and supportive, without pinching or irritating any area of the foot. Only wear your new running shoes during workouts because you don’t want them to incur any additional wear and tear. Running shoes should be replaced every 350-500 miles. Marking the date purchased on the inside of the shoe is a great way to monitor the life of the shoes.

Make a Plan

Once you’ve decided to embark on a 5K, devise a training program that works for you. Delegating specific days and times for training will make sticking to a schedule much easier, and it will also help you track your progress. Designate Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to running/walking. Wednesdays and Sundays should be geared to a total body or cross-training activity (swimming, biking, hiking.) Mondays and Fridays should be rest days, which are paramount to injury prevention and muscular recovery. Rest days also prevent mental burnout.

Start Slowly

If you are new to running, get started with a combination of walking and running, with the ratio favoring walking in the beginning. The interval approach will allow your body to slowly get used to the unique mental and physical demands associated with running. Always warm up with a brisk five-minute walk, preparing the body for the run ahead. Start your run with 30 seconds to one minute of running, followed by one to three minutes of power-walking. As you begin to feel comfortable, add more running and less walking. Keep your focus on distance rather than speed. Follow every run with an easy five-minute cool down walk. Before you know it, you’ll be running 30 minutes easily!

Find a Community

Finding a running group can be a great source of support and inspiration. Usually, there are different groups geared toward all levels of runners, from beginners to seasoned veterans. Once you find a group that suits your needs, you’ll find yourself encouraging fellow runners as they do the same for you. This camaraderie will be a great motivator and will be an excellent tool in helping you reach your ultimate goal. To find a group, simply search for local meet-up groups in your area. They are usually open to everyone and welcome new additions.

Fuel Your Workouts

Training for a 5K involves more than a training regimen and a good pair of shoes. It involves keeping your body fueled with healthy energy-rich foods. Here are a few of the best foods for runners:

  • Water: First and foremost, keep yourself hydrated. Nothing can curtail or derail a run more quickly than lack of proper hydration. Stick with water and avoid soft drinks and sugar-laden juices, which can actually act as dehydrators.
  • Almonds: An excellent source of vitamin E, almonds can also help lower circulating cholesterol levels.
  • Eggs: Meeting 10 percent of your daily protein needs, a single egg also contains crucial amino acids that promote muscle recovery.
  • Whole Grain Cereal with Protein: Ideally, choose a cereal with at least five grams of fiber and eight grams of protein. In addition to breakfast, whole grain cereal, with its blend of carbohydrates and protein, also makes an ideal post-run meal.
  • Chicken: One four-ounce serving of chicken can supply almost half a runner’s daily protein needs.
  • Low-Fat Yogurt: An excellent source of protein and calcium, low-fat yogurt also contains live cultures that provide your digestive tract with the healthy bacteria it needs to function optimally.
  • Whole-Grain Pasta: Pasta contains easily digestible carbohydrates that help restock spent energy (glycogen.) Whole-grain variations have the added benefit of containing more fiber, additional energizing B vitamins and lignans, a disease fighting compound.

Keeping a daily log of what you’re consuming can help provide a better perspective and serve as an excellent tool for optimizing your fuel intake and ultimate running success.

Keep Track

Use your sports watch to keep track of your mileage and time. Recording your progress is a great way to track your progress and inspire continued improvement. Encourage yourself daily and give yourself a pat on the back every time you reach a new goal or personal best.

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