Tips to help you conquer your next 5km

5 km running race, runners feet on road

Let’s talk 5km runs.

Depending on how you approach a 5km run, it can either be fun or  a complete lesson in the meaning of pain. For this article, I am not going to talk about the pain approach much. Anyone that is running a 5km and looking for that route, should be an experienced runner that is willing to go to the redline for the entire route.

Instead, we are going to talk to the beginner runner. Either someone that is going from couch to 5km or simply trying to get faster. Let’s get started.

Pre Plan

stern looking doctor

Talk to your doctor – If you have not worked out for awhile, or fitness is at all a concern, go visit your doctor and make sure it is safe for you to start on any exercise regime. It is always better to be safe.

Honest assessment – Time for a good look in the mirror. What is your current fitness level? In my experience this is always the hardest part to get right. There are usually two camps, those that think they are in worse shape than they are and those that think they are in better shape. Try to be as honest as you can with yourself. Are you overweight? Could you push a bit harder? Are you suffering from any injuries?

Get some gear – Running is supposed to be simple. But, don’t make the mistake of trying to start running with inadequate shoes. Having proper running shoes are the bare minimum. I have a more complete post of essential running gear if you need/want to gather more gear.

Training Plan

The great thing about the 5km distance is the sheer number of training plans that you can find. If you have a smart phone there are lots of great app choices for you to choose from. Here are a few:

  1. C25K – Great app that is available on both IOS and Android. Some of the highlights include:
    1. Alternate between walking and running
    2. Beginner focused
    3. 8 week plan
    4.  3 workouts per week
    5. 30  – 40 minutes per workout
    6. Play your own music
    7. Track distance and calories
    8. Scalable to longer distances
  2. Couch to 5k – Also available on both platforms. Highlights include:
    1. 9 week program
    2. GPS tracking
    3. Sync with music playlists
    4. 3 workouts per week
    5. 30 minutes per workout
    6. Virtual coaches
    7. Scalable to longer distances

Even with a handy training app there are certain workouts you must remember to do. I previously wrote about the three key running workouts you need, and they apply no matter what distance you are planning to run.

If you do not want to use the apps, you can certainly create your own plan. I would recommend keeping it as simple as possible to begin. You will first want to start your planning by setting a duration. 8 weeks is usually plenty. Secondly, have a way to measure. A journal will do fine, just make sure you write down time and distance. I would also recommend noting how you feel.

Here is a sample plan that you can use or feel free to modify.

Weeks 1 -2 – Building a base. During this time, there should be no speed consideration. Instead you should plan on just moving for a set amount of time. Remember just move. If you have to walk then go ahead.

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
 1  XT or Rest  15 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  15 minutes Easy  REST  15 minutes Easy  18 minutes Long Run
 2  XT or Rest  15 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  15 minutes Speed  REST  15 minutes Easy  22 minutes Long Run

*XT = Cross Train

Weeks 3 -5 – Once you have a base set. Now it is time to work on the fitness. Over the next 3 weeks your easy workouts will become progressively harder with less breaks, you should start to see improvements on both time and distance.

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
 3  XT or Rest  20 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  20 minutes Easy  REST  15 minutes Easy  25 minutes Long Run
 4  XT or Rest  20 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  20 minutes Speed  REST  15 minutes Easy  30 minutes Long Run
 5  XT or Rest  20 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  25 minutes Easy  REST  20 minutes Easy  30 minutes Long Run

Weeks 6-7 – With both your base and fitness improved, it is now time to make some real progress. You will be spending more time and effort on your workouts these weeks. Make sure you don’t skimp out on efforts though as these are the workouts that will pay the biggest dividends come race day.

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
 6  XT or Rest  25 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  30 minutes Easy  REST  20 minutes Easy  35 minutes Long Run
 7  XT or Rest  30 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  30 minutes Speed  REST  25 minutes Easy  40 minutes Long Run

Week 8 – Race time!

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
 8  XT or Rest  30 minutes Easy  XT or Rest  20 minutes Easy  REST  RACE DAY  Rest

Race Plan

Now that you have done all the hard work, time to make sure you have the best race day you can.

Food is fuel – Believe it or not, forgetting to eat on race day is a real thing. It happens way more then you think. Don’t do this. Your body is a finally tuned machine and it needs to run on something. If you need a list of things to eat, I wrote about this but it is mostly for longer runs. Don’t overthink this, have a good nutritious breakfast. Whatever you are used to will suffice.

Don’t compare and despair – There will be more than your share of physical specimens at your race. It is what it is. Be happy for them, they have worked hard. Then forget about. It is not something you control. Worry about you.

Warm up – There will be nerves. Use that nervous energy to do a few lengths at a quick jog pace. Feel free to run as much as a kilometre. It won’t affect your performance and having warmed up muscles is a good thing. While I don’t recommend static stretching before exercise, I do suggest that you do some dynamic exercises. High Knees, lunges, butt kicks etc

Don’t go out to fast – This is advice easier to give then to take. Your adrenaline will be rushing, when the race starts you will feel like surging. Try not to. In some races, it may not even be possible to go out slow. If you do catch yourself clocking a faster then comfortable first kilometre. No problem, dial it back. Leave enough in the tank to run the last half faster then the first.

Enjoy yourself – Relax. Look around. Take some pictures. Remember this day, it will be a fond memory for you years down the road. Knowing that you did all the hard work and reaped the benefits on race day. Congratulation! 🙂

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