Spring is in the air and runners are out in droves. You want to get out and join, but how do you get started? A 5k race, or 3.1 miles, is an attainable goal for first-time runners. The steps listed below are intended to help you achieve that 5k goal—without injury.

See Common Running Injuries

Choose a good training pace for your first race to help avoid injury.
Common Running Injuries

Step 1: Set a goal and make a commitment.

A 5k race is a goal to strive towards; it gives you something to stay motivated for when training. Securing a spot in a race can also help with accountability: you’ve signed up for the run and paid the entrance fee, so you may feel more inclined to follow through.

When deciding on a race, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to train—about 8 to 12 weeks, depending on the training plan you choose.


Step 2: Find a training plan.

Once you’ve picked out a race, find a training plan that fits your needs. A training plan will tell you how much to run or walk during each workout. This is important to avoid a common running mistake: doing too much too soon.

See Shin Splints Causes & Risk Factors

There are many free training plans online. Or go to your local bookstore and purchase a running book containing a training schedule.

You will soon realize there are many training plans to choose from. How do you decide? Consider a plan that incorporates:

  • A run/walk regimen. This workout routine is a great option for the first-time runner. For example, a workout could include running for one minute, walking for two. The ratio will change as you progress with your training.
  • Cross-training. A training plan that incorporates cross-training offers immense benefits for novices and experts alike. Cross-training means alternating running workouts with other forms of exercise, such as swimming or biking. It is a great way to recover for your next workout, prevent stressing the same muscle groups and help avoid injuries.

    See 4 Ways Cross-Training Helps Your Running

Step 3: Line up your training essentials

When you are just starting out, here are some general thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Get proper running shoes. You want to wear shoes that fit your feet correctly. A running store is a great resource. These stores typically have a treadmill where you can run or walk briefly while the store associate notes your stride and foot strike. This can help determine footwear choices.
  • See Plantar Fasciitis Risk Factors

  • Stay fueled. It is a good idea to eat a small snack (200 to 300 calories) about 2 hours before your workout. Everyone reacts to food differently, so experiment and find a food choice that energizes your body without causing stomach distress.
  • Stay hydrated. While recommended fluid intake varies, what can be agreed on is its importance. Consume about 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise. It is also good practice to sip water throughout the workout. Then, drink about 20 to 24 ounces of water or sports drink for every pound lost through sweat after the workout.

See Common Running Injuries: Calf and Shin Pain

Crossing the finish line in a race is an incredible feeling, and makes all of the training worthwhile. Whether you are running a 5k race or a marathon, the advice is always the same: just take it one step at a time.

Learn more

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