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How To Train For Your First 5K Articles & Tips

by Ramiro Alvarado

Most people who start running know what a 5K is. It is the shortest road race you can find which is equivalent to a 3.1 mile distance. It is also a good first milestone and realistic goal to set, and can be used as a catalyst to prepare you for the longer distances, such as a 10K or a marathon. As a long distance runner and fitness trainer I would like to share some realistic training tips that have helped both me and my clients improve our running.

  1. Build a consistent base of training - 18 to 25 miles a week, an average of three miles a day. It should take about a month to reach this base. It is realistic to run about four days a week, where the mileage goes from 3 miles to 5 miles, with one long run during the weekend to get in 18 - 25 miles a week.
  2. Run an interval session once a week to increase your aerobic threshold - This consists of raising your heart rate to 75 - 85% of your maximum heart rate (these percentages may be lower based on your current fitness level). An interval session is maximizing your speed, minimizing your distance, with periods of rest in between. An example would be 8 x 400 meter run ( 1/4 mile or one lap on a track) with two minutes of rest and stretching in between.
  3. Fuel Your Body - along with training, take care of yourself! Eat properly by getting plenty of carbohydrates in your meals, drink plenty of fluids, and moderate your consumption of alcohol.
  4. Rest Your Body - Sleep also plays a vital role in your performance as well as helping minimize stress. Take one to three days off a week from running and do nothing or other types of exercise.

These tips should help get you well on your way. If you want to get started now, the following training schedule is a good starting point. Also realize that this schedule should be used as a general guide and may have to be modified to fit your current fitness level. Always consult a physician before starting any exercise program.

Week 1 - consists of 3 - 5 miles or 30 - 45 minutes of easy running or jogging, 4 to 6 days a week

Week 2 - consists of 3 - 6 miles or 30 50 minutes of easy running or jogging, 4 to 6 days a week and one long run of 6 to 8 miles

Week 3 - consists of two 5 mile runs or a maximum of 40-50 minutes, one interval session of 4 x 1 mile with 4 min rest and stretching between each mile and a weekly long run of 6 - 8 miles

Week 4 - consists of two 5 mile runs or a maximum of 40 50 minutes, one interval session of 6 x 800 m (1/2 mile) with 3 min rest and stretching between and a weekly long run of 6 - 8 miles

I would suggest a schedule of alternating running with non-running days. On non-running days, I would recommend some type of cross training, like light weight training to help keep the muscles strong and tone. Key muscles that runners should work on in the weight room include light leg work, abs, back (lats), and shoulders.

Hope the advice helps. Running is one of the best ways to manage your weight, strengthen your heart and increase your energy. A consistent jogging or running program combined with other activities and weight training is a great formula for life-long health. Train hard, pick a 5K in your area and give it a shot. What do you have to lose?

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