How Do I Prepare for My First 5k?

by Annette
(Lawrence, KS)

how to prepare for a first 5k

Hello, I'm a 21 female who is about 30 lbs overweight. I used to do sports in high school but haven't really run in a long time. I want to do a 5k in 3.5 months. I know I need to start running now but how long for how many days?

Answer by Dominique:
Hi there!
First off, kudos to you for setting such a fantastic goal! Running a 5k is a wonderful way to get back into shape and it's great that you've decided to give it a go. To make sure you have all the details you need to succeed, let's break this down as follows:

1. Benefits of run/walking
2. Run/walking 3-4 days per week
3. Strength training for runners

Benefits of Run/Walking

how to prepare for a first 5k
Run/walking is an excellent strategy for getting back into running, especially if it's been a while since you last ran. Here's why:

Reduced Risk of Injury: Combining running with walking intervals helps reduce the impact on your joints and muscles. This is especially important if you're getting back into exercise after some time away.

Building Endurance Gradually: By alternating between running and walking, you give your body a chance to build up endurance gradually. This means you'll be less likely to get discouraged and more likely to stick with your plan.

Mental Breaks: Run/walking can also provide mental breaks. Running can be tough, especially in the beginning. Knowing that a walking break is coming up can make it mentally easier to push through the running intervals.

Improved Stamina and Strength: Over time, as you increase your running intervals and decrease your walking intervals, you'll notice that your stamina improves and you're able to run longer distances without feeling as tired.

Run/Walking 3-4 Days a Week

how to prepare for a first 5k
For someone in your situation, I recommend you run/walk three to four days a week. It helps you get back into regular running and three, four days is good to get a habit and a routine going.

A great program is Beginners Running Program 3. It gets you ready for 30 minutes of running in 12 weeks using a run/walk approach.

3-4 days of running is good. It also provides a bit of time in between to recover and/or do some cross-training and strength training. For cross-training info check out the link. See below for more about strength training.

Strength Training for Runners

how to prepare for a first 5k
In addition to run/walking, incorporating some strength training into your routine can significantly benefit your running. Here's why and how you can get started:

Improves Running Economy: Strength training helps improve your muscle strength and endurance, which in turn makes running feel easier and more efficient.

Prevents Injuries: Building strength in your muscles, ligaments, and tendons reduces the risk of common running injuries. Focus on strengthening your core, legs, and hips.

Boosts Overall Fitness: Combining strength training with your run/walk program can help you achieve a more balanced fitness level.

New to strength training? Then here are some simple strength training exercises you can do at home, 2-3 times per week:

  • Bodyweight Squats

  • Lunges

  • Planks

  • Push-Ups

  • Bridges

  • There are many more bodyweight exercises you can do and the variations are endless. You can make it harder for yourself by adding more repetitions and more sets. You can start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise and build from there. Check the link for more ideas for strength training for runners

    By combining run/walking with strength training, you'll not only prepare yourself to successfully complete a 5k but also set a strong foundation for long-term fitness.

    At all times, remember to listen to your body. It's perfectly okay to take an extra rest day if you need it. The key is consistency and gradually increasing the amount of time you spend running.

    Keep a positive mindset, take it one day at a time, and celebrate your progress along the way. You've got this!
    Warmest regards,

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