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The Ins and Outs of Your First 5K

Training for your first 5k (3.1 miles) race can be exciting and intimidating. If you are a runner, training for your race will feel familiar. If you are not a runner or don’t currently have a regular exercise schedule, then marathon training might seem nearly out of reach. But don’t worry, if you stick with the motto, walk to run, you will see that you can make progress without injury and be ready for your first marathon in no time.


Before you begin running, be sure you use the right gear. Finding running shoes that fit your foot and your arch is important for long-term comfort and helps avoid injury. With so many styles on the market, taking some time to shop around and try on a few different styles will help you find shoes that are comfortable for your feet. And the best shoes will help you train without having to worry about foot, ankle or leg pain.

Socks are just as important as shoes when it comes to marathon training. That’s because they help keep your feet dry and can provide added comfort and cushioning. Socks that absorb moisture and have extra padding can help you avoid annoying and often painful blisters that are common with those new to running. And now, you’re ready to begin training.

Use a sensible training routine that includes a healthy diet, stretching and a combination of running and walking to increase your run times. Proper training allows your muscles, ligaments, and tendons to increase in strength along with your heart rate. These work hand-in-hand to help your endurance and avoid injury along the way. When done correctly, you will be ready for your first marathon in about six to twelve weeks from when you begin your training.

Training Time

Every person is built different, with a different eating plan and exercise background. Your current level of fitness will determine how long it will take you to train for your first 5K. The main point to remember is, don’t push yourself too hard. Running long distances before you are ready can lead to a myriad of health problems and stunt your exercise regimen altogether. It is better to build your running time up over at least six weeks to allow your entire body to condition for the race. Using Apps like Yes.Fit will help keep you motivated and you can earn awesome rewards to.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet used for marathon training may be different than one to build muscles or lose weight. This is not the time to do a low carb diet or fasting. Carbohydrates are needed to provide glucose energy to your muscles. Protein is required for muscle repair, and healthy fats help you absorb certain nutrients and reduce inflammation, which is imperative when it comes to exercise.

While the training diet is not extreme, there are some easy guidelines to follow. Shoot for about 2.5 grams of carbs for each pound of body weight. Be sure they are high-quality carbs that are packed with nutrition, like whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice. Try to eat about .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight for muscle recovery. Again, choose high-quality proteins like lean chicken breast, fish and grass-fed beef. If you’re vegetarian, choose proteins like nuts, temp eh, and legumes. Fat should comprise about 20-35% of your diet from ideal sources like fish, nuts, olive oil, and avocados. And don’t forget to avoid highly processed foods, sugary desserts, and alcohol. All of these can negatively affect your training.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Drink water throughout the day and pay attention to electrolytes when you train. You can even make your own electrolyte drink at home with water, ¼ tsp salt, lemon juice, and coconut water. Add pomegranate or other fruit juice to liven up the flavor and add extra vitamins. Make a habit of drinking water and electrolyte drinks throughout each day, not just on training days or the day of the race. Studies show that keeping your sodium intake between 1500 to 2300 mg/day helps maintain sodium requirements better than “pre-loading” sodium on the day of the race. (1)


Having a solid stretching routine as part of your plan offers many benefits that will last beyond your 5K race. Stretching can prevent muscle pain and cramping while lessening the chance of injury. It can alleviate soreness, lengthen your stride and improve your overall form. The right stretching routine should be balanced, to balance your muscle strength and flexibility to best avoid injury. Here’s an example of routine stretches for a complete body stretch:

Warm-ups with 3-5 minutes of very mild cardio, like on a stationary bike or low impact running in place

• Calf Stretch

• Hamstring Stretch

• Quadriceps Stretch

• Stretch Hips and Hip Carriage

• Loosen Torso with Twisting

• Lower Back Stretch

• Full Spine Stretch

• Shoulder Rolls to Loosen

• Neck Stretches

Try to warm up and stretch before you run, and stretch only until you feel a slight pull. At that point, relax into the stretch, but do not cause pain. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. And remember to never bounce, as this can cause overstretching and lead to injury. Many long-time athletes recommend stretching after your training, as well.

Walk to Run Training

Your actual 5k training will begin with warming up followed by a planned routine of walking and running as you slowly condition your body for the race. Keep track of your training each day to watch your progress and reach goals; a fitness tracker can make this easier. How you begin will be relative to your current level of fitness and your current exercise routine. The following is an example of training for a beginner who will be running their first 5K.

Week 1: Walk 4 minutes then Run 1 minute; Continue this for 15-20 minutes

Week 2: Walk 3 minutes then Run 2 minutes; Continue this for 20-30 minutes

Week 3: Walk 2 minutes then Run 3 minutes; Continue for 25-30 minutes

Week 4: Walk 1 minute then Run 4 minutes; Continue for 30 minutes

Week 5: Walk 4 minutes then Run 6 minutes; Continue for 30-40 minutes

Week 6: Walk 3 minutes then Run 7 minutes; Continue for 35-40 minutes

Week 7: Walk 2 minutes then Run 8 minutes; Continue for 40 minutes

Week 8: Walk 3 minutes then Run 12 minutes: Continue for 40-45 minutes

Continue building in this manner, according to your strength and abilities. Remember, a healthy diet contributes to stamina, muscle strength and how well you recover. Don’t take shortcuts, as you will only hurt yourself.

Running for a marathon is not like sprinting or short-distance running where you go as fast as you can. Marathon training requires you to go at your pace, so a run to some may mean jogging for others. Keep an eye on your heart rate to ensure you’re not overdoing it or pushing yourself too hard. Run or jog only at the speed your body is capable of, and remember that most 5K races are for fun, a time for friendship, to reach personal goals and, of course, fitness.

Day of the Big Race – What to Expect on Your First 5K

So, the big day is finally here, and you are ready to run. Here are some points to remember and what to expect on race day:

• Eat a healthy breakfast before you hit the race. Most trainers recommend a snack or light meal that is easily digestible for at least one hour before the race. Don’t eat until you are full, as that can cause nausea or side-aches.

• Arrive early with your packet. If you haven’t received your race packet yet, get it as soon as you get there

• Hydrate! Drink water when you wake up and continue to drink small amounts throughout the race by taking advantage of the water stops.

• Use the bathroom! Many people forget this and lose time because of it. Use the bathroom before you run, and don’t worry about the water you drink during the race. because you will sweat that out.

• Warm-up about 15 minutes before your race with a slow jog, brisk walk or a combination of these, and don’t forget to stretch.

• Pace yourself during the race, and have fun!


After your daily training, be sure to stretch and use other ways to take care of your body to recover. Some people use foam rollers to work out lactic acid buildup or cramping. Others prefer a hot shower, sauna, or Epsom salt bath to speed muscle recovery. Using massage therapy during your training can also be beneficial if you have the time. So, go out and have fun, remember to walk before you run and don’t forget to consult your doctor before embarking on any kind of new exercise routine.


1Murray, R. and L. Kenney, "Sodium Balance and Exercise." Current Sports Medicine Reports 7.4 Supp. 1 (2008): S1-S2

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