How to Train for Your First 5K

Pace Yourself

Learning to pace is perhaps the most challenging aspect of running. The best way to learn how to pace is to practice.

Mark a loop in your running area with your car or bike. Then predict what your time will be and head out the door and run or walk it. Keep track of the total time it takes to finish and see how close you are to your predicted time.

If you are within one minute, go out and celebrate; however, if you are one minute or more off, it's time to keep practicing and fine-tuning your skills.

Another fun way to learn to pace is to mark off half-mile or mile increments on this same path or head to a track and practice learning how each pace feels.

If you feel like getting into running toys, there are a number of cool speed-distance monitors on the market that will give you your speed and distance instantaneously while you run. A speed distance monitor is a watch that shows you speed, distance, time and even calories on the run. It is a great way to learn your pace and the ultimate running toy.

Build a Strong Foundation

Include total-body strength-training exercises 2-3 times per week for 1-3 sets to build strength in your musculature, tendons and joints. Developing strength supports your body as you run mile after mile. It will also improve efficiency and form while decreasing the risk of developing an overuse injury.

Mix up your routine; run one day and strength train or cross-train the next. Variety works a lot more muscle groups and keeps your workouts fresh and motivating. Alternating a run day with a cross-training day also allows your body time to adapt and recover from each run.

Find Your Style, Love Your Style

In many ways, running is like shopping for jeans. We all have different strengths, speeds and styles. There is no one running style that fits everyone. You may run faster than your friend or she may cruise by you.

Avoid comparing yourself to your buddy because there will forever be faster and slower runners. Some people progress and adapt faster while others (like me) take longer to improve.

Speed is relative, and it is a good measure of your success. Most likely, someone is looking at you and wishing they could be running too. Focus on your running career and where your footsteps are taking you. Like jeans, we all have a pair that fits our style.

Food is Fuel

You are what you eat. Your workouts are fueled by the food you eat every day. Keep a log of what you consume daily and it will give you a better perspective of what goes into your system.

If you are having trouble dropping the weight you wanted or just not feeling strong while running, it could have something to do with how you fuel your body day to day. Eat smaller, more frequent meals well balanced with fruits, veggies, lean protein and even fats too. Skipping meals is the quickest way to gain weight and decrease the performance of your next workout.

Think of your car and how it runs. If you run out of fuel, the car simply doesn't move. If you put dirty fuel into the tank or no fuel at all, the car won't run efficiently. Food is fuel and the ticket to your next strong running workout and recovery.


Keep track, stay motivated and have fun. Track your progress along the way. Keep track of your running time, mileage, mood, shoe mileage and more.

Every workout is a piece of the puzzle and will guide you in figuring out your running recipe. Train with a buddy and make a commitment to meet them regularly. Run with a group or train with a team for charity.

The more fun it is, the more you will want to do it again. Schedule a session with a buddy, take a new route and try something new.

More 5K Training Tips: 

Active logoDownload ACTIVE's Couch to 5K app for Apple or Android

About the Author

Discuss This Article

Follow your passions

Connect with ACTIVE.COM