If you’ve made the decision to run your first 5k this year, then congratulations! Whether you’re running for a charity you admire, for an event you feel passionate about, to meet a New Year’s resolution goal, or just for fun, you’re only 3.1 miles away from a brand new you. And from joining an elite club of other incredible humans who have run a 5k.
We often work with aspiring runners who have set the goal to run their first 5k. To help you have the most incredible first race of your life, we’ve put together everything you need to know in order to run your first 5k. To get started, download our comprehensive free workout blueprint: Your First 5k.
Meanwhile, check out these helpful tips to get more from your training, and set yourself up for success on the day of the race.
Part 1: Tips for Training for Your First 5k
If you’ve never run a day in your life, you’re not alone. But if you read nothing else in this post, read this: Do not attempt to run a 5k without making a serious effort to train first. All too often prospective-runners will underestimate the strain that 3.1 miles can put on an un-trained body. Lack of training almost always leads to ankle injuries, agonizing shin splints, and other strain-related injuries.
When training, always listen to your body. If your ankle twinges with a flash of minor pain after each step, or if your knee starts to feel wobbly, stop immediately and consult a doctor or personal trainer. Even if the pain feels small, the issue could be more significant than you think. Repetitive impact from running can compound your injury and increase healing time.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t prepare yourself for the rigor of this new workout regimen. Muscle soreness is to be expected – pain should not be in the picture.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some 5k pre-race training tips:
- Invest in The Right Pair of Shoes: Not all feet are created equal. And those old running shoes you bought in college four years ago are not going to cut it. Spend some time choosing the right shoes for you. A personal trainer or dedicated running retailer can evaluate your stride, examine your feet, and make sure you’re purchasing shoes that are best for you. Here’s what you shouldn’t do: Go to a store and purchase shoes that have a name brand you like, or colors you think are stylish. The right pair of shoes makes all the difference.
- Invest in a Personal Trainer: A professional trainer – besides the right pair of running sneakers – is the greatest investment you can make before running your first 5k. A trainer will sit down with you, evaluate your current body condition, and give you specific exercises to build strength, increase flexibility, and training guidance.
- Get a Training Schedule, and Stick with It: You’ve already set a goal to run a race. Now you’ve got to give yourself time to train for it. If you’re a beginner, try following a workout blueprint for day-by-day training goals. Make sure you schedule time to complete the workouts – and make it a priority. Otherwise you’ll be on the fast-track to strain or injury.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: If you’ve never run before, you’ll know right away what a satisfying – and intensive – workout it is. Make sure you increase your water intake on training days. Your muscles will need hydration to grow and heal. And you’ll feel better!
- Find What Motivates You: Chances are you’re going to start training and have this exact thought: What on earth did I sign myself up for? Maybe I should just quit! That’s why you need to find what motivates you, and then hold on to it. If you are strongly motivated by music, spend some time creating an incredible running playlist to push you through that last mile. If you find you thrive on accountability, schedule regular training with a workout buddy or personal trainer to stay on track.
- Build Strength and Flexibility: Don’t just focus on getting your heart-rate up. Running is a full-body workout. That’s why it’s important to focus on strength training and flexibility while preparing for your first 5k. Hit the gym and start building strength in your legs, glutes, and core. Then after each gym session or training run, dedicate 10 to 15 minutes to stretching. Your body will thank you for it.
Part 2: Tips for Prepare for The Day of the Race
So, you’ve spent the past few weeks preparing for the race. And you’re confident you’ll make it across the finish line. Now it’s the day before the race. This is the most crucial part of your training. Setting your body and mind up for success is how you’ll get across the finish line. Here are some tips for the day of the race:
- Have a Carb-Loaded Dinner the Night Before the Race: You’re going to be burning a lot of calories on the day of the race. And your body will need fuel in order to keep those legs pumping. That means you need to load up on some healthy carbs the night before. And if we didn’t stress this enough earlier – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Especially if you will be running in the sun or in warmer weather.
- Get All the Rest You Can: The day before the race is not the time for an intense training session. Instead, spend some quiet time stretching and relaxing the evening before. And just like before any major event, make sure to get a good night’s sleep.
- Have a Runner’s Breakfast: If your race is in the morning, give your body some fuel without overdoing it. Try to skip on the jumbo breakfast sandwich, or half pound of sausage. Instead, aim for something healthy, light, and packed with fuel. Try some whole-wheat toast with chunky peanut butter and a banana. Then pack an apple and granola bar to nibble on while you prepare for the race.
- Get There Early: You’ll want to get to the race early. Find the logistics of your registration, including where you should check in, pick up your bib, and where the start line is. Aim to get there at least 1 hour before registration. This way, you aren’t rushing around before the start to prepare yourself.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Yes, we are putting this here again, because hydration is crucial to your success. Make sure you’re near a bathroom, and then crush two bottles of water about 40 minutes before the race.
- Get Yourself Warm: About twenty minutes before the start, do some exercises to get your body warm. Punch out some burpees, high-knees, or lightly jog around the block a couple times. The most important aspect here is to get your muscles working and warm before you start running. Once you’ve spent some time getting your heart rate up, spend about 5 minutes stretching. Focus on your calves, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Have Fun: Look at you! You are at the starting line with all of these other runners to complete a common goal – get your body over that finish line 3.1 miles away. Smile! You’re doing something amazing. We also highly recommend documenting your pre-race face for your social media channel of choice.
Part 3: Tips to Keep in Mind During the Race
The race has started! And you’re off. The streets are lined with people cheering you on because you’re doing something truly incredible – running in your very first 5k. Here are some tips for the track:
- Take it Easy on the Water: If you’ve spent adequate time hydrating the evening before and the morning of the race, then we recommend taking it easy on the water along the race route. Filling your stomach with water during the race may create some stomach cramping or upset. If it’s a particularly warm day, take a moment to slow down, and slowly sip some water. Try to avoid huge gulps where you will also be swallowing air.
- Listen to Your Body: The ultimate goal of your first 5k is not to have a record-breaking finish time – the ultimate goal is to finish. Listen to your body. If you feel any sharp pain, slow it down to jog or walk the rest of the race. That is not to say you shouldn’t push yourself – you earned this finish! Just make sure you’re not putting your health at risk.
- Finish and Reap the Rewards: Like any good 5k, the finish line comes with cheers from friends and family, and a well-deserved celebration. You’ve earned it – Cheers to you!
Looking for a motivating race mentor? Our team of professional personal trainers can help you cross the finish line. Contact us today to get your first training consultation for free!