Tips for 5k Success!

Published on October 1, 2015

Updated on November 4, 2019

Are you ready for the Prevent Cancer 5k Walk/Run? These Preparation Tips will help make sure you have a smooth 5k and get the most out of your training efforts.

You made the decision to do it. You put the work in. Now you’re ready to go! A solid 5k prep strategy and post recovery plan can make all the difference when it comes to running or walking a happy 5K. Read on for my top tips to prepare the night before, morning of and the best way to recover after you fly through the finish line.

Preparation Tips: The Night Before

  1. Get your zzz’s: Not just the night before, but get a good night sleep two nights before the 5k. Sometimes jitters will get the best of you and keep you a bit restless overnight. For a Sunday morning 5k, both your Friday and Saturday nights’ sleep are critical.
  2. Organize: Lay out all your gear: your outfit, iPod, hat, gloves or anything else you may need. This will help you sleep better knowing everything is laid out and save you precious morning minutes.
  3. Pre/Post 5k Gear: There will be a bag check right by registration- pack whatever you want to put on after the 5k. I love having my flip-flops and a dry shirt stashed nearby!
  4. Eat well: You’ll want to make sure you have a healthy meal full of complex carbohydrates and protein. For a 5k, there is no need to go overboard with a giant “carbo load” meal of pasta – the last thing you want is to be too full and bloated in the morning.
  5. Visualize: when you hit the sack, spend five minutes visualizing the next morning. Waking up on time, putting on your gear, seamlessly getting to the start line, doing your best and crossing the finish line strong, proud and happy. If you can see it, you can do it.

5k Preparation Tips: The morning of

  1. Relax: Don’t let your mind get in the way. Just go have fun!
  2. Eat well: You’ll want a little something light in your stomach to give you easy energy for your run or walk. Nothing too heavy or high in protein, fiber or fat. Oatmeal, bananas, toast – these are all good options. Depending on your size, everybody’s meal will be different, but you shouldn’t need more than 150-250 calories and get it down about an hour before start time.
  3. Be Nice: Start lines can get very congested and some people are a bit competitive. Runners will start first, followed by the walkers. If you know you’re going to jog, line up towards the back of the pack of runners so you don’t get run over. Talk to people, some people go alone, so having the camaraderie of fellow runners makes everybody’s day better.

Recovery tips:

  1. Celebrate: First and foremost – pat yourself on the back! Hug your training buddies and give every stranger you see a high 5! It’s a big deal to get out there and take on a 5k- you should feel good no matter how things went down on the course. Don’t forget to take a picture!
  2. Cool down and stretch: With all the excitement at the end, make sure you walk it off. Check out the Health Fair and keep on moving to let your body cool down. Don’t forget your regular stretches – this may prevent some unnecessary soreness.
  3. Refuel: After the course you will want to refuel. But don’t overdo it. The average runner burns about 300 calories in a 5k, so packing on post 5k treats can add up faster than you think. Look for something with a mix of carbohydrates to replace lost glycogen and protein for muscle repair.
  4. Treat Yourself: Do something really nice for yourself because you earned it. Maybe a manicure/pedicure, foot/body massage or even just a hot bath. Think about what went well and what you would do differently next time.

The Prevent Cancer 5K Walk/Run is on Sunday, October 4 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit

About the Author: Teresa M. Howes is a nutrition expert, fitness advocate, avid runner, published author and active blogger. Backed with a formal education, a personal training certification from ACE and over a decade of professional experience consulting in the weight loss industry, she has an arsenal of tools, tips and tricks that she loves to share. Fired up with enthusiasm, she co-founded Gals Who Run in 2014 and is thrilled to be cultivating a community of inspired, dedicated and successful runners. You can find her latest and greatest at or


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