A 5k run is an excellent way to push yourself as a beginner or seasoned athlete. If your goal is to increase speed, lose weight, or boost your performance, 5k will significantly push you further to achieve that.
As a beginner runner looking to start 5k running, it can be challenging to know how to prepare and train. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide to share the essential tips for 5K running as well as do’s and don’ts when start this journey. In addition, we also have a segment on tips to help you ace the run during the actual 5k run day.
Beginner Tips for Preparing for a 5k Run
Let’s start with what you need to do when preparing for your first 5k race.
Start Preparing Early
Preparation is essential, and early preparation is even more critical. It allows your body enough time to adjust and gain muscle flexibility. In addition, early practice gives you enough time to build up cardio and effective training to avoid overtraining and injuries.
Eight weeks before the run is an excellent time to start preparing. The body will adapt, and you will get more comfortable running for longer distances and at a quicker pace as you build resilience. Such early preparation will also give you a positive experience as you start the rewarding journey of 5k running.
Part of the preparation will involve ensuring that you have the necessary gear. 5k running does not require a lot of equipment; you only need the right running shoes, clothes and you are good to go.
The best running clothes should be sweat absorbent and well-fitting. As for running shoes, they need to have superior cushioning to protect your muscles, joints, and calves from pain and injuries. In addition, the best 5K running shoes should be lightweight, comfortable, and made of durable materials.
Accessories such as a smartwatch are great but not mandatory. You can find plenty of apps to monitor the distance you cover. Another essential preparation is to figure out the route you will be using, primarily if you practice in a new place.
Establish a Practice Routine
One of the first things you will need to do is choose or create a routine to follow. A schedule helps keep you in check and on track with the exercises. It is also an excellent way to monitor progress.
There are plenty of free mobile apps to you guide you. The best distances to start with are short distances to allow your body time for flexibility and build resilience. It would help if you increased the distance with time, and it’s best to target above 5k during the training weeks or days leading to the actual 5k run.
Check out this great video by Nerd Fitness that talks about training for a 5K and also some common mistakes:
Always Start with Warm-Ups and Stretch
Starting 5k running will require your body to adjust to the intensity of the exercise, especially if you have not been actively working out. You don’t want to get injuries as you prepare to run your first 5k. A warm-up will prepare you physically and mentally for the upcoming 5k race.
Before starting to exercise and run, take about 5 minutes to engage in warm-up exercises. They can be as simple as walking, jogging, rope skipping. You can also stretch your muscles by performing various exercises.
Stretching is also essential for post-workouts.
Adopt the Right Running Form
An excellent running posture is critical in how well you get to run. Running form is unique to you. However, you need to ensure that you run correctly and train the body to stay in the proper form when running. Else, you might end up hurting your back or joints.
One of the general running tips for a good form includes running tall without excessively leaning forward. Maintain a forward focus with your chin up instead of looking at your shoes. You should also relax your shoulders and avoid crossing your arms across the bodyline as it consumes a lot of energy.
Another tip to maintaining proper running form during 5k running is reducing your strides and propelling your body forward using your arms more. The aim is to keep an even effort, not a running pace. When it comes to downhill running, allow gravity to drive the body by leaning forward a bit.
Remember that these guidelines are general, and your running form ultimately depends on you. If you are a midfoot striker, your running form will differ from a forefoot striker or heel striker.
Resting in between the training days is essential. It also allows your body time to recover from muscles injuries and general body soreness. A question that most new 5k runners often ask is;
Should I run the day before a 5k race?
It ultimately depends on you, but most experienced runners prefer to rest and relax the day before the race. It allows them to feel fresh and well prepared. Others prefer to go for a light jog the day before to keep their body active and relax muscles.
Whatever choice you make. Ensure that you don’t engage in intense activities that leave you with soreness and tiredness.
Tips for The Actual 5K Running Day
The training and preparation are now over, and the day is finally here when you get to run your first 5k race. You may be feeling a little jittery, and this is perfectly okay and normal. Here are tips to help you ace the race. By observing them, you will be more confident.
Eat Right and Dress Appropriately
You shouldn’t run on an empty stomach, but you should allow enough time between your last meal and the race. Eat your last meal between two to four hours before the race begin. The best diet should be a meal low in fiber and high in carbs.
In addition, you should also take plenty of fluids because running can dehydrate the body. It is also okay to drink small amounts of sports drinks during the run.
It might be tempting to wear new running clothes and shoes during the actual 5k race. But this shouldn’t be the case. You need to wear an outfit you have worn before and feel comfortable. In addition, you don’t want to break into new running shoes the day of the race. They might end up giving you blisters, chaffing, or general discomfort.
Choose an outfit you have felt most comfortable in during your preparation days. The free race t-shirts might also not be the best choice as they tend to have more cotton and can get heavy as you run and sweat. During a cold season, dress warmly for the period you will be waiting for the race to start.
Start by Walking
We all learn to walk before we learn how to run, and that’s precisely how you need to start your 5k running race. Walking for the first minutes allows your body to warm up to the task ahead and cool down. It also gets your body mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming intensity.
In general, faster running should come in the second half of the race. This tact is known as a negative split. To identify the right pace, test your racing pace during the preparation.
Of course, if you have really focused on your training and can run the entire 5K comfortably then this should be your goal. But don’t feel obliged to do this and force yourself, as this can lead to potentially unwanted injuries.
Bring Along Support Team
A support system is vital in your first 5k race. Where possible, bring along your family and friends for motivation. They can stay close to the finish line, and you knowing that they will be there to cheer you on as you finish will keep you going.
In addition, if one of them can run with you at the same pace as you run with, ask them to join you. You will have someone to encourage you when you feel like letting go. If you don’t have one, you may also join support groups with people running the race with you.
Hydrate During the Run
Running can be intense, and you will likely get dehydrated because of the sweating. Use the water stations in the running track to drink more water. The downside to hydrating from recover stations is that as a first-timer at 5k running, you are yet to master taking water from the recovery stations during running.
You can also opt to carry your water. It helps as you avoid crowds at water spots, and you also get to drink your favorite flavor/brand. However, it means that you will be carrying water and a hydration pack or belt, so you will have more weight which can slow you down.
Ultimately, hydration should be your ultimate goal and how you choose to do so depends on your preference.
Running has tons of benefits, and if you have made a decision to start 5k running, you are on the right path. It can be a demanding task at first as the body adjusts and gets used to the new routine, but with early preparation and consistency, you will get used to it.
5k running should be fun. Do not get lost in the competitions and thoughts of whether you will be among the first ones to cross the finish line. Relax, give it your best and enjoy. Finishing the race and getting the experience should be the ultimate goal as a first-timer. You will get better with time; trust the process.
And remember, the only person you should be competing with is yourself, getting a little bit better day by day, week by week.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.