7 Tips for Successful 5K Training

Published on September 21, 2011

Updated on November 4, 2019

Whether you are getting ready for the Prevent Cancer Foundation 5K on September 24 or looking to start running on your own, read these tips for successful 5K training.

1. What is the minimum amount of time that someone needs to prepare for a 5K?

At least a month to work up to 2-3 miles for people who run a little bit and have a little experience; 6 weeks for someone who doesn’t run at all; 8 for someone who doesn’t go on regular fitness walks.

2. Is there a certain type of training schedule that is best suited for building up running stamina?

There are four phases of running training—

a) Endurance-People who run very little or not at all should focus on the first phase. Endurance is really about muscles repeating a movement over and over again at a comfortable pace for a prolonged period of time.

b) Stamina-Don’t run too far, too fast and too soon.

c) Economy-Consider using the 10 percent principle to allow for body changes required to complete a 5K — stronger muscles and joints, improved blood circulation, improved lung capacity, etc. Don’t run more than the previous week’s total mileage plus 10 percent to avoid injury.

d) Speed-Run at a comfortable pace. If you can’t talk to the person next to you while running, you’re probably running too hard and too fast.

2. Should my training routine only consist of running? Should I also incorporate weight lifting or other types of exercise?

The obvious answer is yes. Consider running every other day, and walking on non-running days or performing a different type of exercise. Weight training is good for a stronger body overall, but remember, your body will make needed changes to adjust to increased demands placed on it to improve running endurance.

3. What other things can I do to prepare my body for the 5K?

Don’t forget about stretching, which is something hardly any of us do enough of. Many runners develop extremely tight hamstrings as they become better runners. But in time, tight hamstrings can lead to many other injuries that may sideline you for a while and place your training plan and 5K completion goal in jeopardy. Work up to holding stretches for at least 30 seconds.

4. What are common pitfalls people face when training for a 5K?

Don’t show up on race day without putting in the training. Can you finish? Probably. Can you finish uninjured? Probably not.

5. What should I eat the morning of the race?

That depends on the individual, but avoid a big meal for breakfast. You will burn mostly carbohydrates during the event, so consider whole-grain toast, fruit and lots of non-caffeinated liquids. Avoid a lot of protein so you don’t feel like you have a brick in your stomach at the starting line.

Any other advice?

a)  Stay hydrated and run your own race with your own finish time goal. Too many times runners start out too fast only to fade before the finish line. You’re attempting something that many Americans cannot do, including America’s youth, so stay focused on your own training plan and your own finish time goal.
b)  See your doctor if you’re overweight, on medication, or have any other medical concerns before starting a training plan.
c)  Avoid training during the hottest part of the day. Consider running in the morning or evening when it is cooler.
d)  Have fun.

Editor’s Note: Joe McConnell is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach

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