What you need to know about training for your first 5K, say personal trainers – Eat This Not That
Thinking of running your first 5K? Congratulations, we are thrilled for you! The 5K, which is about 3.1 miles, is a great first run for new runners because it’s an achievable distance to achieve, says NASM-certified personal trainer Michele Levy. “Sometimes when people start running they set a really big goal, like a 10k, half marathon, or full marathon. These distances can feel physically and mentally overwhelming, making it hard to start and keep going. of a training program. On the other hand, you can work up to running a 5k over a few months by training for 20-30 minutes a few days a week. It’s not too daunting,” Levy tells us.
Running in a 5K is also great for beginners because it’s so much fun. But the best part? Attending a 5K usually benefits a rewarding cause, making it an all-around feel-good event. “Depending on where you live, there are usually local 5Ks happening every month, and they often have engaging themes. Some, like the Turkey Trot, are holiday-themed. Others focus about costumes or a certain type of food, like the NYC Pizza Run.”
Ready to challenge yourself to cross the finish line? We asked Levy and three other coaches for their most helpful tips for 5K prep and race day. Here are the takeaways you don’t want to ignore. Read on to learn more about training for a 5K, and then be sure to check out The 6 Best Exercises for Strong, Tone Arms in 2022, the trainer says.
Whether you’re new to running or you’ve never run 5K before, practice makes perfect. That means giving yourself plenty of time to build up your cardio endurance by exercising regularly, says Karen Dunn, running coach, personal trainer and owner of Strengthen Your Stride. “I recommend giving yourself eight to 12 weeks of regular training before your race. Running is accumulative, so the more you do, the more your fitness will improve and the more enjoyable the race day will be,” says Dunn. Staying consistent can also help ward off injuries, notes Kai Ng, aka “Run Coach Kai,” a USATF and RRCA-certified running coach.
What exactly is considered consistent? It depends on your training schedule, but you’ll probably need to lace up your sneakers three or four days a week. If you’re on a budget, consider downloading a “couch 5K” workout plan or app — there’s plenty to choose from, says Run Coach Kai. If you want to invest a little more in your running journey, Run Coach Kai recommends that you hire a coach like him to write you a personalized training program. “A good trainer can build you a program from where you are right now and provide you with the right training and race rhythms. From there, all you have to do is show up, follow the plan and get the job done,” he said.
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Most couch-style 5K workout routines for beginners start with walk/jog intervals, Dunn says. So, for example, on day one, you might do 60 seconds of running, followed by 90 seconds of walking. You then repeat this walk/jog interval for eight or nine rounds. “At first, walking time will likely be more than running time, and that’s okay! Over time, the goal is to reduce walking time and increase jogging time, with goal of being able to run 5km without stopping,” Dunn explains.
New runners are prone to tightness and soreness, but warming up and cooling down can help you feel better and avoid injury, says Dunn. To warm up, check out our expert-backed running warm-up routine. To cool down, walk for 5 to 10 minutes, then do dynamic stretches like pigeon pose or downward dog with calf steps, Dunn recommends.
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Just because something looks like a running shoe doesn’t mean it’s a running shoe, warns Run Coach Kai. “Good running shoes are flexible, allowing your feet to move with a full range of motion, and light enough not to hold you back,” he says. So how can you find one that fits the bill? Levy advises going to a specialty running store.
“Ask to speak to a specialist and have them test your running gait. The specialist will be able to tell you how your foot lands when you run and can offer you a variety of shoe options to suit your needs,” says Levy. “I see so many people buying the wrong sneakers for their feet because the shoes are a pretty color or their friend has the same pair. But you should invest in running sneakers that make you feel like you’re floating on the road! Happy feet, good races!”
Strength training can help you run faster and prevent injury, says Vanessa Liu, an NASM-certified online fitness trainer, so consider it a non-negotiable when preparing for your run. “For example, if you have weak glutes, your knees may be tight because they take the brunt of the force as you run,” Liu says.
Run Coach Kai agrees that strength training is a must for injury prevention and recommends starting by adding planks and squats to your weekly workout to build a strong core and legs. If you want a more personalized program as you get more familiar with running, a personal trainer can create one for you.
When it comes to running and racing, rituals are everything. “Usually on race day you want to avoid trying anything new because you don’t know how your body will be affected,” Liu says. This means sticking to the same shoes and clothes you typically train in and eating the same pre-workout meal or snack. “For example, if you wear a new running shoe, you might get blisters. And you might risk digestive issues if you eat a new breakfast,” Liu says.
“For your first run, it’s best to focus on the experience and the fun, even if you have to walk part of it,” says Levy. “The last thing you want to do is get too busy reaching a certain time target. Not only could that lead to injury if you push yourself too hard, but you can also forget to savor the experience – people tell you cheers, how your body feels after each mile, and the sights you see. Once you’ve got a 5K under your belt, you can challenge yourself by trying to beat your time or do a longer run.”