How To Prepare For Your First 5K

So you’re ready to start running. You would think that it would be pretty self explanatory. One foot in front of the other, at a pace faster than walking. While yes, it is one of the simplest forms of exercise, running will torch calories and build your endurance — if you do it right. Here’s what you need to know to get ready to run your first 5K.

Set an Appropriate Goal

If you haven’t run a minute in your life, it’s probably not realistic to sign up for a 5K that takes place two weeks from now. It’s also not wise to expect to finish the race in 20 minutes — it could take around an hour for walkers to complete a 5K. After a few weeks of training, set a goal for yourself. It may be a time that you’d like to achieve, or to simply finish the race — and that’s ok!

Find a Race

Look for a race that’s 8-12 weeks away, depending on your current fitness level and your goals. Most training programs are about 8 weeks long, so that will give you plenty of time to get in shape for the big day. Signing up for an actual race will also give you incentive to follow through with your training! Some great places to find events are Runner’s World or There’s a ton of really fun races that will be a blast, like The Color Run.

Start Training

First, you’ll need to find a training plan. Popular plans include Couch To 5K and Hal Higdon’s training programs. Know what’s awesome? There’s TONS of apps that you can download for free or cheap that will basically train you automatically. Just hit start, pound the pavement, and do what the app tells you to do!

Eat (and drink!) Like a Runner

Your food is your fuel — you put in garbage, you get trashy results. Focus on eating clean: whole, unprocessed foods are what your body needs to perform. Here’s a fantastic food pyramid for athletes that you can use to guide your food choices (click the image to be taken to a more detailed image):

via International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Human Kinetics, 2008;18(4):430-437.

Don’t Push Through Pain

If you find yourself injured, listen to your body. Ignoring what seems like a minor injury could lead to a much larger injury that will put you out of the game for an even longer period of time. Here is a list of the most common running injuries, their causes, and what you can do to treat them.

Have FUN!

Running turns your body into an endorphin factory. Enjoy the accomplishments that you achieve, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a slow go of it. Remember — no matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everyone on the couch.

You can read all of my weight loss posts here.


  1. amy says

    I’m signed up for the Color Run in Charlotte, NC this November.. I can’t wait.. glad cooler weather is here so i can start training.. I have NEVER been a runner.. My 6 yr old is going to do the 5K with me, so we will likely walk a lot of it.. but i am excited to start doing this together.. thanks for the encouragement..

  2. says

    Thanks so much, there’s quite a few good points here!
    I had underestimated the importance of drinking/consuming lots of fluids and liquids. Though it totally makes sense! They’re usually low calories, and fill you up, AND hydrates you. I’m signing up for the color run in Winnipeg this year! And it’s 5km :)

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