Tips For Running Your First 5K

Tips to get you from training to race day!

So you have recently gotten into running and now you’re ready for your first 5K. Congratulations! A 5K, which is just over 3 miles, is the first race for most runners. It’s one of the shortest races you can do, making it ideal for beginners. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean it’s easy. These seven 5K tips will help you during training and on race day.

1. Don’t run every day.

In theory, the more you practice, the better you get. However, when it comes to exercise, your body needs time to recuperate. Forcing your body to work without recovery can lead to cramps and injuries. Try running two to three days per week. If you feel like you can do more, add a few short-distance runs or some leisurely walks. If your muscles feel sore all the time, decrease your runs to once per week. Listen to your body!

Our 5K Running Guide for Absolute Beginners is a great example of how to structure your running days.

2. Cross train using exercises that will strengthen your legs.

Squats, lunges, and jumps will help you strengthen leg muscles that help you run faster and longer. There are many variations of these moves that you can try, using barbells, dumbbells, or just your bodyweight. You can even incorporate them into a Tabata or HIIT workout. This Abs, Butt, and Legs At-Home Workout is great for runners.

3. Practice running outside.

Sure, treadmills are a great tool, particularly on rainy or cold days. However, running outside can have a different feel to it. The terrain can be uneven, and you may encounter sharp hills or declines. Practice running outside to get a better estimate of your race day speed. In fact, if you can run the route where the 5K will take place, that’s even better!

You can use a GPS app to monitor outdoor runs. They’ll help you track mileage and speed in real time. Check out our suggestions for the best health and fitness apps.

4. Eat 1 to 2 hours before your run.

You don’t want to eat right before your run because a full stomach can make you feel sluggish. On the other hand, eating too many hours before your run might leave you feeling hungry by race time. For most people, 1-2 hours before is ideal. However, you know your body best. Learn what’s best for you during your training time so that you’re ready for race day.

5. Make your pre-run meal a mix of protein and simple carbs.

Your body easily breaks down simple carbs such as sugar. This is why sugar is great for quick energy. Eating a healthy dose of simple carbs in your pre-race meal will leave you energized. Protein is also important because it plays an important role in muscle repair. Our energy snack recipes are full of high-carb snacks made with clean ingredients.

6. Warm up before every run.

Whether it’s race day or you are just leisurely training at the gym, it’s important to warm up before your run. You can try some brisk walking or dynamic stretching to loosen the muscles and joints. You can also read more about our recommended warm-ups.

7. Stretch after every run.

Stretching after your run might be even more important than warming up. Stretching helps ease the tired muscles and prevents them from becoming too tight. Excessive tightness in the muscles can lead to pain, decrease your range of motion, and leave you vulnerable to injuries. These 10 Essential Stretches for Runners will help keep you loose and limber.

Keep these seven 5K tips in mind to get the most out of your race!


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Sofia Lopez

Sofia received her BA from Cornell University and her MFA from San Francisco State University. She creates workouts and fitness challenges. Her hobbies include running, hiking, and listening to audiobooks from the exercise bike.

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