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Prepping for a 5K: The New Runner’s Cheat Sheet

May 15, 2015

If you’ve been thinking about running a 5K but have been apprehensive to do so, you may be more capable than you think. A 5K is great run for beginners because at 3.1 miles, it’s not a very long distance, so you can prepare for the run in just a couple of months.

Start your training schedule about seven weeks before the 5K. Running on a treadmill will work if that’s your only option, but it’s best to mimic the course you’ll be running on the day of the 5K. If it’s a flat trail, try to find one nearby to run on. If the course has hills, try to find a hilly trail or park.

Your training routine will begin with walking then slowly incorporating running into your routine. For example, walk for 45 seconds then run for 15 seconds. Each week, increase the amount of time you run until you run the entire distance.

One day each week should be a rest day when you won’t train so your muscles can recover. A second day of rest is also recommended, but moderate exercise such as a leisurely walk is beneficial.

Before the Race

The week before the race, decrease your mileage slightly in an effort to keep your legs fresh for race day. Don’t exercise at all two days before the race, but do a short 20-minute run the day before the race with bursts of sprints to sharpen your legs.


The night before the race, you’ll probably experience some pre-race jitters and nervousness. For this reason, it’s crucial that you get a good night’s sleep two nights before the race. Your body needs to be fully rested in order to tackle the 5K.


You’ll need fuel for your run, so eat breakfast about two hours before the race. Don’t overdo it, though, as you could end up feeling full and sluggish. Eat something that’s easily digestible, such as a bagel or a bowl of oatmeal, and don’t forget to hydrate.

Arrive Early

5Ks and other marathons are typically crowded and hectic, so it’s best to arrive about an hour early and get settled in. You’ll be able to check in, wait in line for the restroom, and warm up.


Make sure you’re limber for your race by stretching your muscles about 25 minutes prior to starting. Warm up with a 10-minute jog then stretch any tight muscles by doing toe touches or other similar exercises.

Keep a Steady Pace

During the run, it’s important to you find your pace. Don’t start running full force within the first mile because you’ll drain your energy. Start conservatively and aim to finish strong so you can use all of your energy at the end of the race.

After seven weeks of training, you’ll be able to tackle your first 5K! Keep these tips in mind before and during your race and you’ll be fully prepared.

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