How to Train for a 5k Race

Developing a Training Plan to Prepare Your Body and Rock Those Miles

Eek! You signed up for a race. What now? You need a training plan to prepare your body and rock those miles.


Training plans are used to help make progress toward your goal. Tackling a new challenge like a 5K can be scary. A plan gives you the structure you need to succeed. It takes all the guesswork out of it! You just have to follow the schedule to be sure you’re increasing mileage and preparing your body.

Step 1: Find your plan

Most 5K plans are 6-8 weeks. Search online, poll your runner friends, and/or ask a running coach or a running expert for advice. Plans vary from beginner to expert levels. If this is your first 5K, start at the beginner level. Don’t be tempted by the expert or advanced levels! You want a plan that will help you reach your goals without pushing your body too quickly.


Step 2: Progress slowly

The rule of thumb on increasing mileage is no more than 20% per week. That means TOTAL mileage (not daily). For example: if you currently run 5 miles per week, you shouldn’t bump up next week to any more than 6 miles. Your risk of injury increases with big jumps in mileage. Keep it slow and steady. Progress in small increments like adding a ½ mile to a couple runs rather than adding 2-3 miles per run. This gives your body the chance to accommodate to longer runs with less strain on your muscles and joints.


Step 3: Stretch

Always stretch after you run. Hit the majors including glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, calves, and groin. You’re working these muscles when you run. Stretching after helps them to go back to a normal, non-running relaxed state. Tightness and stiffness make your muscles less effective and more prone to injury.  


Step 4: Strengthen

You won’t find a training plan that has you running everyday. Because you shouldn’t. The other days are to increase strength and mobility to make you a better runner. Major targets are core and glutes. A stable core and strong glutes allow you to move more efficiently which decreases injury risk.


Step 5: Rest

You need rest for everything to recover. Think about this like sleep. We all know that sleep helps our bodies rebuild when we’re sick. Rest helps our bodies rebuild when we’re training. You need at least 1 day per week to unload muscles and joints.


Step 6: Be consistent

You will feel much better on race day if you stick to your plan. We all miss a few days when life gets busy. Don’t totally give up because you had a rough week. Tomorrow is a new day to get back on track! Consistent training allows muscles to build strength and become efficient so you get better at running.


Step 7: Know when to push and when to get help

While training for new things you can expect to be tired and sore. These should get better as you keep training. If you’re having pain or discomfort that keeps getting worse or never goes away, get help. Earlier is better to avoid significant injury or injury to other areas.


Step 8: Keep a positive attitude

Training is hard. It’s time-consuming, you’re tired, you’re sore, and probably hungry all the time. Keep a positive attitude to achieve your goal. Picture yourself finishing the race with a huge smile. Tell yourself you’re an amazing runner. You don’t have to be an Olympic marathoner to be a runner – you just have to put one foot in front of the other.