How to Train for a 5K
Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start gearing up for those 5K races that seem to take over every town and city across the US. If you're thinking that a 5K is not right for you, hold on to that assumption and read on. There's no reason that you cannot participate if you select the right 5K format to match your level of physical fitness and ability.
“A 5K or a similar event is a great motivator for getting into shape,” says Sean Wells, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist for the NSCA, and the fitness expert at BistroMD. “It keeps you motivated to continuously exercise, especially if it's for a good cause, or a charity you are passionate about.”
If you are ready to get in gear for a race, here are some tips from Sean about how to train for a 5K.
Tip #1: Do Your Research
“Not all 5K races are exactly the same,” says Sean. “Make sure you research the event completely before you commit to training for one.”
Some 5K races aren’t just three miles, but a combination of other activities. Some 5K events even incorporate intense physical obstacles that test your body's endurance, strength, and agility.
“It’s important that you are aware of your physical limitations,” says Sean. “Otherwise, this could lead to serious injury or worse.”
If it’s your first 5K event, just do a 5K (run three miles). Find an event that is scheduled at least six months in advance. This will give your body enough time to train, and give you enough endurance to cross the finish line.
Once you master one 5K race, you can start expanding your horizons and do an event that incorporates obstacles.
Tip #2: Don’t Cram Your Training
As mentioned before, it’s important that you give your body enough time to build up the necessary endurance it needs to tackle your 5K event.
“If you have never done a 5K before, it’s important that you start training at least six months before the event,” says Sean. “Depending on the intensity, you may want to give yourself even more time.”
To prepare for your first 5K, devote your first week of training to light to moderate cardio. Walk or jog for at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days out of the week.
Once you get to a pace where you can do this without running out of breath, break apart your workout into timed segments. Split your time between running and jogging. Once you master jogging, gradually back off and just start running for 30 minutes straight. After this, you can then bump up your training regimen to a more balanced workout, with a combination of strength training and aerobics exercises.
To get a more balanced workout, follow these tips from Sean:
1. “I recommend getting at least 75 minutes of aerobic exercise per week,” says Sean.
Aerobic exercises include: cycling, rowing, running, swimming, and aerobics classes.
2. “If you want to have a well-balanced workout, it’s important that you include strength training exercises,” says Sean.
This includes training all of the major muscle groups at least once a week. (legs, chest, back, arms, and shoulders)
To work these major muscle groups, use equipment like dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or your own body weight.
3. To keep your muscles loose and flexible, stretch before and after each workout.
“Before any aerobic or strength training workout, stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, and midsection,” says Sean. “This will help you avoid injury, and will help your muscles get the most out of your workout.”
On February 25, 2012, BistroMD's marketing team competed in the Super Spartan Race in Miami, FL—an eight mile obstacle course that was a test of the endurance, strength, and mentality of each team member.
“The Spartan Race is tough, and our team trained for over the five months,” says Sean. “We essentially had to run for eight miles while climbing up cargo nets, swimming across a river, and dragging small boulders for about ½ a mile. This race was intense, but it was proof that everyone can participate in events of this nature if they choose something they can handle, and train smart.”