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9.04.2014

Ask a Health Advocate: What are some tips to help me prepare for my first 5K?

A 5K race, equivalent to 3.1 miles, is a great introduction to running for fitness. This race is a good starting distance for beginners, novice runners, or anyone looking to switch up their fitness routine. So how can you begin preparing for your first race?

Give yourself enough time to train

Training time is based on your current fitness level, running experience and race goals. If you have been sedentary or are not a regular runner, give yourself at least 6-8 weeks before the event to train. The Couch to 5K training plan is one example of a specific program to help you progress to running a 5K distance. Check out the Couch to 5K app here. Aim to run at least three days a week and consider cross training activities (strength training, other cardio activities) once or twice a week for strength building and injury prevention.

Run the course

Most events provide a map of the race course. Get a copy of the route when you begin training and plan to run the actual course each week. Running the course will get you mentally and physically prepared for race day, and you will know what to expect ahead of time. If you choose to primarily run indoors on a treadmill, use the interval or hill training programs for your runs. Running at varying inclines gives you more resistance to help build strength and endurance.

Get in gear

The most important piece of gear for a 5K is a good pair of running shoes. Visit a specialty running store where you can be properly fitted for a pair of sneakers. This will help with injury prevention and can ensure a more comfortable run. Other gear that can be nice to have includes running socks, a water bottle, a music player, and a sports watch or fitness device. Decide what will work best for you and consider how much you want to budget for the race.

Run with a friend

Training can be more enjoyable when you have someone running with you. Sign up for a race and train with a friend or family member. Or, join a local running group.

Set realistic goals

Typically the best goal for your first 5K race is to cross the finish line. Once you get a better idea of your running time, you may want to give yourself a new challenge and work towards improving your time.

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the Wellness Coaching program, reach out to your Wellness Coach for more tips on running for fitness.

Have a question for a Health Advocate? Email nhess@healthadvocate.com, and your question may be the topic of an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!