How to Train for your First 5k
Running & Fitness Running & Fitness Tips

How to Train for your First 5k

Ah, the lovely 5k. With all my big running goals and runDisney multi-race challenge obsession, I sometimes forget just how perfect this little gem of a race is. How much do I love thee 5k? Let me count the ways.

  • As long as you maintain a base fitness level, you can always answer “yes” when a friend calls and says, “Hey, wanna do a fun 5k with me this weekend?” (Had they asked, “Wanna do a marathon?” Yeah. Not so much.)
  • They are reasonably priced, often benefit a charity, and sometimes you get a medal.
  • They don’t hog up your whole Saturday or require much if any recovery time.

So for those who are planning on running their very first gem of a 5k or have made it a goal for 2017, here’s a list of tips and suggestions!

How to Train for your First 5k1. Take the plunge by registering!

As a rather frugal gal, pulling out my credit card to register for a race is always a huge motivator. By selecting which race to run will also give you a training timeline and specific goal date.

Not sure where to begin? A simple Google search such as “Maryland 5k runs” will bring up several websites like Running in the USA, Active, and other state specific sites. From there, you can narrow down your search by month or location to find one that’s just right for you.

How to #Train for your First #5k #werunsocial #runchat #running Share on X

2. Select a training plan.

My suggestion? Downloading the Couch to 5k app. (C25k.) Seriously, I wish I could do a giant poll to see how many runners have began their training journey with this absolute gem of an app. The nine-week program will gently ease you into running 3.1 miles nonstop with three workouts a week. In the app store, there are many different 5k apps to choose from–some free, some for a minimal charge, but the C25K official app was my favorite and will get you to the finish line!


Being new to the sport, I’d understand your hesitancy to go out and buy expensive shoes and gear. What if running doesn’t end up being your thing? What if this 5k is a total one-and-done?

However, if you’re uncomfortable from improper clothing or if you become injured from ill-fitting shoes … well, your race might turn into a one-and-done before you get a chance to really fall in love with running.

At the minimum, ladies, be sure to purchase a supportive sports bra since your boobs aren’t meant for bouncing. And those running shoes you got off the shelf at Dick’s Sporting Goods because they look pretty? They may be smashing, but it’s better to go to a running store where a pro will test your stride on a treadmill and then fit you in the best shoe. A pair of good moisture-wicking socks aren’t expensive and will save you from blisters.

A fancy running watch, race belt, hydration vest, and pricey Sparkle Skirt? Those things can come later after you’re hooked.

4. Forget Stereotypes

Here’s what I love about running: It’s a sport for everybody. Everybody, regardless of your size, age, height, weight, or what have you. All that is required is the desire to place one foot after another. So if you’re nervous about starting to run because you’re [insert the reason here,] please stop. Define what “runner” means for yourself and get out there!

5. Warm up Well

Static stretching? A big no-no. Straining your muscles when they’re cold can lead to injury. Dynamic stretching such as high knees, butt kicks, walking lunges, and leg swings? A big yes-yes. This, along with a brisk walk, with get your blood flowing and will help with flexibility. Here’s a great video with some examples:

6. Celebrate Milestones

Once you are able to run your first mile without walking … CELEBRATE!

Seriously. This is MAJOR. I mean, think about it. If you continue with a running career and go on to run many races, completing your first mile is pretty darn monumental and life-changing. So once you do … and I know you can … treat yourself to something wonderful!

7. Listen to your body

What is also wonderful is respecting your body enough to know when it needs to be pushed … and when it needs rest. Sure, there will be days when you’re feeling lazy or too snuggly-warm in your bed to hit the road, but if you’re overly tired or sore, if you know deep down in your bones that you don’t have enough juice, then take the day off and recover.

8. Recover like a boss.

Speaking of recovery, after a workout, be sure to either drink or eat some kind of protein within thirty minutes. My personal favorite is peanut butter on wheat toast, especially if I’m nauseous. I also love smoothies made with almond mile, whey protein powder, blueberries, flax seed, a banana, and raw spinach. It certainly doesn’t look pretty, but it does the trick!

You also want to make sure you’re hydrated to where your urine is the color of light straw. At this point, however, you won’t need any energy gels, (such as Gu’s,) or pre-workout supplements. That will come when your miles increase!

9. Don’t worry about your time

You are in a gorgeous position: Whatever time you get is an automatic personal record, aka PR! So don’t stress about a time or set a specific pace goal. Without having an actual race underneath your running belt, you have nothing to base it on and your goal might be unrealistic. Savor the fact that you’re finishing and worry about that later!

10. Decide on a Reward

Speaking a savoring, think about what would be an awesome reward. Think about it now, even if you haven’t started training yet. Lunch and drinks after the race at your favorite restaurant? A new purse? Dinner and a movie? Select an awesome reward, run your race, and then treat yourself. You deserve it!

Best of luck training for and running your very first 5k, I know you can do it! And when you do, be sure to share your good news with me. I’d love to find out how it went!

Also, be sure to subscribe since we are continuing this training series with tips for  10k, half marathon, and full marathon. Also coming up are suggestions for defeating pre-race jitters and much more!

As always, happy running and have a joyful day!


Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger, vlogger, wife to an amazing guy for 26 years, mom of two wonderful boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that plus she can quote most lines from Talladega Nights. Shake and bake!

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  1. I love the positive attitude you have! I was so nervous when I was preparing for my first half marathon that I remember that I barely even made it to the start line. I ended up starting and completing it, for which I am so thankful now, 3 years later! Thank you for the tips – I hope they help newbies who are going through this right now.

  2. Very nice post for newbies! You have made some excellent points there! Setting reasonable goals, staying motivated and getting a suitable and comfortable pair of running shoes is my advice to new runners! Thank you for your post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and offering some great advice! Comfortable shoes is everything! 🙂

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