How to Train for a 5K

Repeat after me: "I can run a 5K!"

Yes. You. CAN.

Even if you're not a runner (Neither am I).

Even if you're not as teeny tiny as Darcie or as focused as Lisa or as tenacious as Michele.

YOU CAN cross that finish line.

Here's how...

girls gotta move 5k training plan1. Decide on a running plan.

All three plans are FREE. All three plans are designed to take you from not running at all to running 3 miles. You start by doing run/walk intervals and gradually work your way up to steady jogging. Totally do-able.

I used the Girls Gotta Move plan for my first 5K. I printed it out, stuck it on my refrigerator, and marked off days as I completed the workouts. Old school, but easy.

how to find 5k races2. Locate a race 6-9 weeks from today. Google "[Your City] running" or "[Your City] 5K" and a long string of options should pop up. Or use the Runner's World Race Finder tool, where you can specify your location, preferred dates, and type of race (1 Mile, 5K, 1/2 Marathon, Women's Only, etc.). The latter tool is non-comprehensive and non-outstanding, but it's a starting place...

10_dollar_bill3. Get out your wallet & Sign up. Paying money will make it a reality. Putting it on your calendar will motivate you. If it helps, tell your friends and family that you will be running on such-and-such date.

asics gel cumulus4. Buy a pair of running shoes (if you don't already own a pair). For my first and second 5K races, I wore a pair of ASICS Women's Gel Cumulus tennis shoes (similar to the ones pictured). For my third 5K (that I just ran on Saturday!), I wore Mizuno Wave Ascend 4 Trail Running shoes. Both pairs were excellent.

If you have money available, I also recommend that you invest in a few high-quality workout clothing tops and bottoms that will make you feel fabulous. Brands to consider: SkirtSports, Nike,, Brooks Running, and Oiselle.

ninja kick5. Commit to your training. At first, it will be hard. Don't give up. You. Can. Do. This. Give all excuses ("I'm exhausted." "I'm just not a runner." "It's too cold." "It's too hot." "I have to clean the house." Etc.) a mighty ninja kick and get out there. It may help to have a "running buddy" to motivate you - your husband, your neighbor, your best friend, your baby, etc.

5k6. Show up on the day of the race. Don't fret that you won't "fit in" with the 5K crowd. 5Ks are for everyone. You'll find people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Some people will run fast. Some people will run slow. Some people will walk. You can do any of those things. Focus on crossing the finish line. When you do, you will smile, your will take a picture, and you will want to do it again will feel strong and powerful and energized.

And you know what? After you run one, you will realize that maybe...just are a runner, after all.

YOUR TURN: Have you ever considered running in a 5K? Why or why not?

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18 comments on “How to Train for a 5K”

  1. I am looking to run the Undy 5000 5K to raise awareness and money for colon cancer in honor of my Daddy in November and this post is just what I needed to get me going. Thanks so much!

  2. definitely considered it.
    i'm more of a team sports player. i used to play soccer religiously until i found some more balance in my life and i had kids. anyways, as a part of my team sports i did some pretty intense training for a while which included a lot of interval running.
    oh the good ol days.

  3. I am actually halfway through week 5 on the couch to 5k 9 week program! I decided to start this program because I was walking 5k and it was taking me an hour. So, I decided to train to run 5k so that I could maximize my exercise time and cut the time back to a half hour instead of the hour before. I love the program and I found a website where I could download mixes that will let you know when to increase your speed and decrease your speed. It takes a lot of the guess work out. Here is the site:

  4. You pretty much know my story.
    I followed the couch-to-5K plan and it worked pretty well. But after having 2 kids and being sedentary, I elongated the training. I just walked for about a week because that was all I could do. And I still can't run more than about 7 minutes at a stretch. Then I walk for a couple minutes and then I can run again.
    I've been wondering why some people can keep running for 20 or 30 or 40 minutes, even at a slow pace while I feel like I have to walk to recover and then can run again.

  5. I do want to do a 5k. I am needing to do something and having a goal like that is motivating. After your exercise theme last spring I was motivated to get up and move, so I actually bought myself some GOOD running shoes (the Asics you have pictured above - I hadn't bought new running shoes in over 5 was time!). I started running a bit and my husband and I participated in a local race called the Wharf to Wharf. It is a 6 mile run, we probably ran just over half and walked the other bit quickly. It was really fun for us to do together and we brought the kids in the stroller with us. I haven't done anything since then, but I am itching to get up and do something! I need to use one of the running plans you listed above...I get too lazy if I don't have specific goals lined out.

  6. I'm actually planning on racing in a 5k in the next few months Lord-willing! So, I appreciate your advice and help, I will be getting started ASAP. :-)

  7. I'm going to try the "Cool Running offers a 9-week Couch-to-5K Running Plan." program you've linked to. I'll likely start it in the Spring. It's on the top of my physical goal list of 2010 to run 3k by the end of the year, so maybe I'll actually be able to do it before the end of the year!


  8. Your topic here came at a great time. Last week I saw there was a 5K/10K race in my town on April 3rd. I decided to try and race it. I have done the couch 2 5K before... before kids. I had already decided to go that route again. (all this before I saw your posts) I did Day one today actually. It was not as hard as I thought it would be.

  9. Thanks so much for all these tips and resources. This is the post I've been excited for since you announced the theme of this weekend. I really need this!

  10. I ran cross country in high school and although I never was one of the best, I had a pretty good time. I have done several 5K's and a half marathon in 2007. My time is really slow now after baby but I still feel really good about myself after a run.

    I also love the feeling during a run, the thinking that goes on.

    I totally agree with you about having good shoes, this is really important.

  11. Perfect post to describe how to get started in running! Might I add...invest in a pair of running socks. It might be that I run long distances, but before dropping $15 for one pair of running socks, I always had blisters on my poor little toes. Since then, my feet are in pure bliss when coupled with a good pair of running shoes.

    Hey...maybe I'll see ya at a PF Chang 1/2 one day? :)

  12. I'm convinced that anybody can run a 5k given the right mindset. I ran cross country in high school (won the New England Championships two years in a row) and at college. My twin sister and I were what people always called prodigies when I came to running. The point is though that I burned out during college and quit because I couldn't take the stress of losing a race (pushed very hard to win). I didn't run for 6 years, not even a mile. Then someone convinced me to run a 5k with them because they wanted company. So I reluctantly agreed. I didn't train for it because I was expecting to hate it. But, what I found was that when I didn't have to worry about defeat I actually enjoyed it. I'm running again now (did the chicago marathon a few years ago) and I don't care if I don't win. I just do my best. These are excellent tips you have here. I would also add, about the shoes, that it isn't really the shoe that matters as much as the fit. All new runners should get a gait analysis done and be fitted for the right kind of shoe. I wear racing flats for everything, but some people need more support while others need more cushioning and so fourth.

  13. I never imagined myself as a runner, even in high school although I was on the track team I never considered myself a runner... first off I threw the discus, but I did run the required 1 mile everyday at practice... I wish I would have gotten into running instead of thinking the Girls Head Track coach was crazy asking me to join the cross country team... my response always was "Do I look like a runner?" Oh how I wish I could take it all back... I have ran several 5 ks... Maybe 5 in the last 2.5 yrs. I got started running through my MIL. She was losing weight and running and she signed the whole family up for a 5k and that was my first... It wasn't until the end of this summer that I decided to start training for a half marathon and it was all because of my first and several 5 ks after that I kept thinking if I could do this I could run a 10k or even a half... I do plan on running in more 5k's! Maybe one day I will win a medal!

  14. Wow. You're a runner who's not a runner. ;) I'm not a runner, either. I racewalked through an airport once, though, to catch a plane.

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