11 Things You Should Do When Training for Your First 5k

It’s official: you’ve committed yourself to running a 5k, but what does all of that even mean? How do you train? What do you need to do to prepare? Don’t stress, though: you’re about to find out all the tips and tricks that will help get you to the finish line. Although training for a 5k is filled with hard work and long runs, it can create amazing bonds and hilarious memories with the people you share it with. I’ve met some of my best friends just from training together, working hard, and supporting one another throughout it all. Running is one of the most rewarding sports, so grab your running shoes and let’s get started.

1. Grab a running buddy!

Admit it: there are going to be days when you’re tired or lazy and don’t feel like getting a run in. We’ve all been there! If you commit to plans with a running buddy, though, odds are you won’t want to bail on them. What’s even better is that you’ll have someone to chat, laugh, and smile through the pain with. I’ve met some of my best friends through cross country, and nothing can form a friendship like a 5 mile run!

2. Research what races are happening near you

There are tons of races all over the world, but find the one that’s right for you! Want to raise money for a good cause? Check out the races that are geared towards specific charities. Looking to get dressed up and go crazy? Sign up for The Color Run, which is coming to Queens on May 7th! With any race you pick, be sure to give yourself 6-8 weeks of training time. Mark it on your calendars and get ready to train!

3. Invest in a good pair of running sneakers

Before I joined cross country, I thought that a pair of Nike Free’s would cut it. As cute as they were, they made running a nightmare for me! Be sure to head to your local running store or even a sporting goods store to find the best shoe for your foot. Brands like Asics are the most popular particularly because they’re extremely supportive and stable. Invest in shoes that’ll last not just for training but also until race day. You don’t want to have to break in a new pair of shoes on the big day!

4. Make a good soundtrack

Running with music can be super beneficial if you need an extra push. For long distance runs, I’d recommend going without music and just noticing what’s around you. However, for those speed workouts and sprints, a good playlist can get you through that final push. Artists like Florence + The Machine and Drake are two artists that always tend to be blasting in my ears. If you have Spotify, be sure to check out their running playlists which respond to your pace!

5. Don’t be afraid to start out slow

It takes time for your body to adapt to running - don’t rush it! Start off with running two or three times a week. Run about 2-3 miles at a comfortable pace and work from there. If you push yourself too much, you’ll end up with an injury. That being said, you should still know when to push yourself. If you think you’re running too slow or can easily speak to your running partner, you’re probably right.

6. Drink tons of water - your body needs it!

With all of the exercising that your body is doing, hydration is key! However, don’t be fooled by Gatorade or other energy drinks. You’re going to end up consuming unnecessary sugar, and water is the best way to hydrate yourself. During cross country season, I noticed a huge change in my performance depending on how much water I drank that day. Carry around a Nalgene or big water bottle with you and create goals for yourself.  Tired of plain water? Add in fresh fruit to infuse it!

7. Mix in some speed workouts into your running schedule

Long runs in the park are the best, and they're definitely something that I always love. However, you need to push yourself a little harder once or twice a week. Sprint laps around your track or on the treadmill, pushing yourself to get a shorter time.

Let’s say you usually run a 10 minute mile. That means that you would be able to run a lap around the track in 2:30. Sprint it and try to hit 2:15! These workouts, although challenging, can lower your time and strengthen your core. Grab your friend, blast some music, and get sprinting!

8. Stretch, stretch and stretch again!

Stretching is the most underrated factor within running. Before and after workouts, take the time to stretch your legs, arms, and back. I tended to always skip stretching, eager to start my run and grab a smoothie afterwards, which ended up with an injured IT band. Do some yoga, stretch your hamstrings, and give your body some love!

9. Set reasonable goals

Maybe you want to run a 5k to test your endurance, gain confidence, become healthier, or just have fun. Whatever your goal is, work hard to achieve it. However, don’t set goals that can be too challenging to achieve during your first 5k. Have confidence and work hard, but don’t drive yourself crazy if you don’t get a time under 25 minutes. It’s your first time, so work hard and do the best you can!

10. Plan a fun pasta party the night before your race

If you’ve ever spoken to anyone within cross country, pasta parties are a tradition for the night before race day. Grab your friends, prepare the pasta, and get excited. It’s often said that carbs before race day are a given, so put that garlic bread on your plate and enjoy! (Just make sure you get to bed at a reasonable hour).

11. Enjoy your first race and celebrate afterwards!

When you get to the race, be sure to warm up and stretch out so your body is ready to go. Listen to your body - before, during and after. If you’re hungry, eat a granola bar or a piece of fruit before the race. Don’t run well on a full stomach? Just drink a cup of tea! Run the race as best as you can and don't push yourself too hard, and when you finish, let the celebrations begin! You just ran your first 5k!