How To Start Running Your First 5k! (+Beginners Running Program)
Written by: Liz Brown - Nov. 5, 2020
Running your first 5k is an exciting, rewarding, and healthy goal. If you’re just now getting interested in jogging, the first step you want to take—long before the starting gun—is understanding how to start running long distances, and on a regular basis. Believe it or not, there’s way more to it than just, you know, going running. The good news is, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got the interest and maybe even the enthusiasm; and that counts A LOT! So congrats! 👏
This blog is intended to give you a concise but detailed overview of running for beginners. We’ll dive into everything you need to know to get started and show you not just how to run a 5k, but convince you that it’s easier and more rewarding that you imagine.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Benefits of running
- Types of running
- Running gear
- Tips for getting started
- 4-week beginner running program
Benefits Of Running
Millions of people all over the world enjoy running. It’s a great way to get fit and stay fit, to increase physical activity, and is one of the best exercises for short and long-term health. Research has shown that running is one of the most effective ways to burn calories, build cardiovascular endurance, improve mental resilience. It can even slow the aging process.
Health benefits of running
- Aids weight loss
- Boosts immune system
- Improves cardiovascular endurance and respiratory health
- Improves bone, joint, and muscle health
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Elevates mood
Running isn’t only great for your health, it’s an inexpensive hobby with little upfront investment and relatively fast learning curve. Running doesn’t require any special equipment or gym membership for that matter—all you need is a good pair of supportive running shoes! Another great thing about running is that you can essentially run anywhere, anytime, and it’s available to anyone! Anyone can learn how to start running regularly.
Types Of Running
Running is running. But the type of running you do will depend on your goals and where you run. Different conditions, such as trail running, hills, treadmill, etc. may influence your running plan. Long-distance running types include road running, treadmill running, trail running, track running, and racing.
If you want to learn how to start running, especially as a beginner, it’s important to consider the type of running you plan on doing because each style will require slightly different gear (shoes, water bottles, attire, etc.) and training prep.
If you’re running your first 5k, you’ll likely be road running. Road running is a measured course over a paved or established road. Most long-distances races, whether 5k runs, half marathons, or full marathons occur on a paved road. Road running is generally save, but, like any style of running, it’s not without risks.
Top of the risk-list: traffic. Thankfully, greenways are becoming more popular on city roads making it safer for “road runners.” (“Beep-beep.”) Running on a harder surface also stresses your joints and feet more, because your foot strike is almost the same with each landing. This can break down your muscle a lot faster and increases your risk of injury.
A positive with road running is that you can get a higher pace per mile running on a flat surface—perfect for something looking to run their first 5k!
If you like running indoors, treadmill running is for you. Treadmill running is also a great option for runners who live in areas with unpredictable or unfavorable weather conditions. Running outside during a snowstorm on iced-over roads or when it’s 120 degrees outside isn’t fun for anyone, and is dangerous for everyone.
Treadmill running is a safe option for anyone limited to seasonal outdoor activities where they live. Since the treadmill belt is smooth and cushioned, it’s also very forgiving on the joints. Runners with knee injuries often have an easier time running on treadmills, with reduced risk of further injury.
On the flip side, treadmill running can get boring. You can put in a ton of effort on the treadmill but you don’t actually go anywhere. If you’re the type that wants to feel a sense of accomplishment after running a long distance, treadmill running might not give you the wow factor you’re hoping to achieve. You also have to consider that not all of your muscles will be activated during a treadmill run. Since your running condition is the same no matter how far you run, you might miss out on the balance and agility benefits that come with other types of outdoor running.
If you love and live near nature, trail running may be exactly what you’re looking for! Whether it’s dirt, sand, gravel, or mountains, trail running is always interesting and has a ton of health benefits. According to a study, being close to nature while running can reduce stress, ease anxiety, and even boost your mood! Similarly, trail running requires immense focus and concentration. Because these runners are in the natural elements, the trail can often be unpredictable—runners often have to climb over logs, sidestep roots, run through streams, and traverse up steep hills. These conditions can improve your overall balance, strength, agility, and reaction time, but also put you at a higher risk of injury. Sprained ankles are common amongst trail runners, often due to uneven surfaces, and it’s recommended to pair your trail running with a regular strength training routine. Cross-training with weights and balance training will not only help runners improve their running, but it makes them stronger, faster, and more comfortable on the trail.
Track running includes short and long distance options, from the 50-yard dash, to the 100, 200, and 400-meter sprints, and hurdles. Unlike other running styles that focus primarily on increasing distance while decreasing time, track running often includes targeted speed training. Long distance track running is also a great option for runners who prefer to run outdoors but want a safe environment that’s easy to track distance.
Racing is a great option for anyone looking for a little thrill and competition, and perfect for training with a partner There are many different types of races, like 5k runs (3.1 miles), half marathons (13.1 miles), full marathons (26.219 miles), and even ultramarathons. Ultramarathons are any footrace that is longer than the traditional marathon distance (> 26.219 miles).
Distance racing usually entails striving for a personal best time. The majority of people who enter a race typically have no intention of winning (or even come close for that matter). Researching how to run a 5k is often the first step toward reaching a personal milestone and accomplishing a major goal. And you’ve come to the right place for that!
Here comes the fun part—shopping! If you want to get all Forrest Gump and truly go the distance, you need the right gear. Before you hit the road (and the runnings store), you’ll want to answer the following:
- What type of running do you plan on doing?
- What is the weather going to be like during your race prep and race day? Consider the location and the time of year.
- What will the terrain be like on race day?
- What will you need to be comfortable?
Once you have an idea on how to answer these questions, you’re ready to shop!
Running Gear & Accessories
- Shoes—Shoes are by far the most important investment for any runner. Seek out a running shoe that is not only comfortable, but has ample support and is made for the type of running you plan on doing. If you’ve never owned a good pair of running shoes, I recommend buying them at a local shoe store that is specific for runners. Oftentimes, the staff is very knowledgeable and can help you pick out the best shoe for your needs.
- Socks—You’d be surprised just how many different types of socks there are for running. Running socks can vary in thickness, fabric, height, and of course, size, so make sure to ask your local retailer which socks will be best for you!
- Sports bra—For women, sports bras are crucial for running because, well, we gotta keep the girls in place. A high-impact sports bra is best for running because it offers the most support.
- Shorts or pants—Depending on the weather and what you’re most comfortable wearing, you will need shorts or pants (obviously). There are endless options ranging from compression shorts, v-notch shorts, split shorts, and more. Like most types of clothing, running bottoms come in a variety of styles, cuts, fabrics, and fits. In the end, I recommend buying what’s most comfortable for you.
- Top—When it comes to picking out a running top, there’s really no wrong answer in regard to style or fit. Fabric and comfort are the most important factors to consider.
- Jacket/vest—A jacket or vest isn’t necessary by any means, unless you’re running in cold climates. Just remember, you’ll be working up a good sweat and you don’t want to overheat..
- Water bottle—Hydration is key during your run, so a water bottle is crucial. Any water bottle will work but I prefer something lightweight and eco-friendly.
9 Tips For Running Your First 5k
So, you’ve officially decided you want to run a 5k (Woohoo!) Here are nine super-simple tips for running for beginners and preparing for your first race.
Step 1: Fully commit
Wanting to run a 5k race and actually committing to it are two entirely different things. If you’re serious about running your first 5k, then take the steps to follow through! Buy the bib and reserve your spot. Knowing that you have a race to prepare for in advance is top-level motivation tool, and helps you work up your endurance over time. This way, your body isn’t in complete shock at the end of the race and you cross the finish line looking like Bambi taking his first steps.
Step 2: Set clear goals
Setting clear goals is crucial to your success. When setting your running goal, you’ll want one large, overarching goal to strive for. With that, you’ll also come up with a series of mini goals that help you reach the larger goal. If running the 5k is your primary goal, you might set your mini goals in one-week increments, starting with a short distance and increasing your distance goal each week. For example, you might start by walking a mile one week, walking and running a mile the week after, and then jogging the mile a week after that, and so on…
Step 3: Find a running program
Running programs are great tools to help you build the endurance you need to reach your big goal. Running programs typically break up your large goal into a series of smaller goals that can easily be obtained each day. They keep you on track and typically come with new challenges to help you continue pushing yourself toward your big goal. If you’re looking for a running for beginners 5k training program, keep on reading!
Step 5: Train smart
It’s important to train smart when you’re preparing for your first 5k. For instance, try to train in similar conditions to race day conditions. So, if your race is a road run, practice running on pavement, as opposed to a treadmill. Similarly, if your 5k race happens to be a trail run, get out in nature and hit the running paths outside.
Step 6: Break in your running shoes
Break.👏 In.👏 Your. 👏 Running.👏 Shoes!👏 I cannot emphasize this enough! If I can give one piece of advice to any new runners preparing for their first 5k, it’s to break in your running shoes before the big run. Buying brand new running shoes right before your race may give you a boost of confidence, but you’ll also cross the finish line with big ‘ol blisters on your feet. So, buy shoes in advance and break ‘em in.
Step 7: Keep your joints healthy
Running can exhaust your body and be tough on your joints if you’re not used to it. Taking good care of your joints leading up to your race will help your body recover and heal optimally, so you can continue to perform well and feel your fittest. I recommend taking a daily collagen peptide supplement, like Super Youth, to keep your joints in tip-top shape! Collagen is an imperative protein that keeps joints (as well as hair, skin, and digestive tracts) strong and functioning properly. It helps you delay aging effects, which means you can stay stronger and fitter for longer. New to collagen supplementation? Check out this detailed breakdown. It will change your mind about being “too old” to start running!
Step 8: Eat the right foods
It may be obvious, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Eating right during your race prep (and every day) can make all the difference! Since running burns so many calories, it’s recommended that you fuel up on carbohydrates and not restrict them during your prep.
Step 9: Find a supportive community
Training for your first 5k can feel like a daunting task. Having a support system there to help you through the hard times makes all the difference! Find a local running group or online community to help you stay accountable and offer support when you need it. The Super Youth Community Facebook group Community You’ll meet hundreds of women who are all looking to reach their health and fitness together! I highly recommend joining if you’re planning on running your first 5k.
Running For Beginners: 5k Running Program
So, the time has come! It’s time to start training for the big race! This is a simple and easy-to-follow running program for running your first 5k. You’ll begin Day 1 with a ½ mile walk. By the end of the running program, you’ll be able to run 3.1 miles (a full 5k)! Learning how to start running is difficult to do, but simple to act on—all you have to do is show up for yourself every day and don’t give up! Ready to get started? Let’s do this. 👊🏃♀️
Week 1: (1 mile goal)
- Day 1—½ mile walk
- Day 2—½ mile walk/jog
- Day 3—¾ mile walk
- Day 4—¾ mile walk/jog
- Day 5—1 mile power walk
- Day 6—1 mile walk/jog
- Day 7—1 mile jog (LOG TIME)
Week 2: (2 mile goal)
- Day 8—1 ¼ mile walk
- Day 9—1 ¼ mile walk/jog
- Day 10—1 ⅕ mile walk
- Day 11—1 ½ mile walk/jog
- Day 12—1 ¾ mile power walk
- Day 13—1 ¾ mile walk/jog
- Day 14—2 mile jog (LOG TIME)
Week 3: (3.1 mile goal)
- Day 15—2 ¼ mile walk
- Day 16—2 ¼ mile walk/jog
- Day 17—2 ⅕ mile walk
- Day 18—2 ½ mile walk/jog
- Day 19—2 ¾ mile power walk
- Day 20—2 ¾ mile walk/jog
- Day 21—3.1 mile jog (LOG TIME)
YOU DID IT! Great job! 🏅