Running Denver community member Jason Lewis, a personal trainer, wrote a guest post for us on prepping for your first 5k. Thanks, Jason!
A 5K may be the shortest road race format out there, but that doesn’t mean runners don’t need to prepare. New runners in particular should spend time getting ready for race day. If you’re training to run your first 5K, don’t forget these 11 tips.
1. Start Early
If you’ve never run a day in your life, you have some work to do before you’re ready for 3.1 miles. Gradually build your endurance by running a little bit further each day. Don’t worry about being good; just start where you are and work your way up. That may mean walking at first, but it’s better than injuring yourself and giving up.
2. Find Your Motivation
Define the reason you want to run a 5K. Are you trying to get in shape, make new friends, or is the satisfaction of finishing a race motivation enough? When you know what you’re working for, it’s easier to keep your eye on the prize.
3. Take the Talk Test
Can you talk while you run? If you’re too busy gasping for air to hold a conversation, you’re probably running too hard and setting yourself up for injury.
Running shouldn’t be the only workout on your training regimen. When you cross-train, you build a strong foundation to carry you to the finish line. Try yoga, bodyweight exercises, or swimming to improve strength and endurance and prevent injury. If you have a home gym, consider these pieces of equipment as vital for your home fitness training.
5. Fix Your Diet
You can’t outrun a bad diet, and if you’re running to lose weight, you could end up frustrated by stagnant scale readings. Even if body mass isn’t a concern, a poor diet could leave you feeling sluggish and disrupt your training schedule. Focus on eating lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean meat and plant-based proteins. Carbohydrates make great race fuel, but opt for complex carbohydrates like from whole grains for long-lasting energy.
6. Find the Right Race
If you live near a city, there could be dozens of 5K races in your area every year. Instead of picking any random race, think about the experience you want for your first 5K. Consider whether you’d prefer a competitive race or a fun run, if you want a themed race, and if you want to raise money for charity.
(Running Denver’s favorite themed race is, of course, the Great Candy Run. These kids did it. You can too!)
7. Check Out the Course Before Race Day
Don’t go into your first 5K assuming it will all be flat ground. Make sure you scope out the route ahead of time so you can factor any hills, unpaved terrain, or other challenges into your training.
8. Recruit a Running Buddy
Not only will a running buddy keep you motivated during training, but they will boost your confidence on race day too. When you know someone has your back, you don’t have to be nervous about taking on your first 5K.
When the date of the 5K arrives, it’s time to start preparing your body for the big event. Dehydration during a run can lead to decreased performance and muscle cramps, so hydration should be your top priority. Avoid drinking large amounts of water right before your race, or else you may feel bloated and uncomfortable while running. Instead, drink a liter of water the morning of the race, followed by a little more right before you start. Drink frequent small amounts of water to stay hydrated during the run.
10. Pace Yourself
Rather than letting enthusiasm lead to overexertion, pace yourself during the race. Start out with a comfortable conversational run, and wait until you’re comfortably nearing the second mile to pick up the pace. The last thing you want is to get hurt and have to stop early.
11. Keep Running
Don’t quit after you’ve conquered your first 5K. Find more races to run, and as you grow as a runner, try training for longer races like marathons. You can find marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons in exciting locations around the country, and while all those miles may seem like a lot now, you’ve made it here — and with that same dedication, you can make it there too.
Race bib image Copyright 123RF Stock Photo
Lonnie has also put together some training videos. They’re quick- check them out.
And if you’re looking for a race, try our race calendar. You can even add events if you want to share the running love!