Training for and running a 5K is a great opportunity to get physically fit, tweak your diet and enjoy time outdoors with family and friends. If you are new to running or have taken time off, here are some simple tips for getting started.

Getting started training for a 5K

6 week training guide infographic
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Four to six weeks is a good amount of time to prepare for a 5K. It is important to start slowly and listen to your body to avoid injury. Start each training day with a warm-up and finish with a cool-down of brisk walking followed by gentle stretching.

Your training days should include 20 to 30 minutes of both running and walking. Initially, you can begin with just one minute of running followed by one minute of walking, and do that for a total of 20 minutes.

You can gradually increase the amount of time you are running and shorten your walk breaks, not to exceed a total time of 30 minutes. Every training day should be followed by a day of rest to help your muscles heal.

You might also enjoy incorporating one day of cross-training per week into your schedule to help build endurance while strengthening other muscle groups. Low impact activities like biking and swimming are great ideas for cross- training.

While training, make sure to drink eight glasses or more of water per day. You can also use this time to refine your diet, cutting out processed, sugary foods and eating a more plant-based, whole foods diet.

Avoid common running injuries

  • Footwear – Having the right footwear can make all the difference. Older running shoes can lose support and integrity and put you at increased risk of injury. Visit your local running shop to help find the best shoe and size for your running style and foot shape.
  • Listen to your body – Most running injuries do not come out of nowhere. If you have persistent soreness, aches and pains, it is probably best to rest for a few days until the pain is totally gone.
  • Stretching – Stretching should be part of every runner’s routine. Stretch either after a 10-minute warm-up or after a cool-down. Remember, stretching should be comfortable and should not cause pain.

Find a training partner

Running with a partner is a great way to create new friendships or nurture preexisting relationships, or you may enjoy the solitude of running alone.

One of the best ways to train for your first 5k is to find a friend or two to run with you. You don’t need to train together for the entire time, but planning a weekly group run can be motivating and fun during the course of your preparations.

Race day

On race day make sure to warm up and cool down, stay hydrated, eat light before the race and enjoy a recovery snack — a food or drink with both carbohydrate and protein — within 30 minutes of finishing your race. Always listen to your body and don’t wait until you are exhausted to take a walk break during the race.

Most importantly, have fun and use this as an opportunity to increase your personal wellness. 

Get more fitness and exercise tips on the Moving section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.

Ross Budacki, MD

Dr. Ross Budacki is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute. He specializes in sports medicine.