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Training for your first 5k: Training schedule and tips

Friday - 12/13/2013, 9:14am  ET

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A 3.1 mile course is the perfect distance for those new to the 'race scene.' (Thinkstock)

Lisa Reed, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Running a 5K is an excellent goal for new runners and a great way to challenge yourself or a friend. A 3.1 mile course is the perfect distance for those new to the "race scene," and with a little training, you'll be ready to lace-up and head to the start line.

The key is to prepare your mind and body about eight weeks out from your race. Since running puts quite a bit of stress on your joints -- especially the knees -- it's especially important to be proactive when it comes to taking care of your body. It is vital to incorporate strength training, stretching, interval training, cross-training, good nutrition and foam rolling into the training mix.

Even before you being a training program for your first race, there are some things to consider:

  1. See your doctor: Visit the doctor for a physical and blood test. If you are deficient in anything, now is the time to adjust your lifestyle and diet before taking on any goal.

  2. Make sure you purchase a good pair of running shoes: This is one important step in staying injury-free during training and the race.

  3. Warm-up, cool down, stretch and foam roll: It is also crucial you complete all your warm-ups, cool downs and stretches.

  4. Eat to compete: Make sure you are eating the right foods for your runs and workouts, as well as a post-workout recovery meal to replenish protein lost during training.

  5. Hydrate: Muscles need water -- especially to prevent cramping, dehydration, muscle strains or pulls. Water also provides energy and improves performance.

A typical 5K training schedule: The break-down

Mondays and Fridays: Mondays and Fridays are strength training days. Complete a total body circuit of two to three sets of 12 reps on each muscle group.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays: Warm-up for the first five minutes with a light aerobic exercise to loosen up your muscles and warm you up for your run. Try walking briskly, jogging slowly or cycling on a stationary bike. Make sure you don't rush your warm-up.

Then, perform your run at a comfortable pace for the designated mileage. Make sure you cool down by walking or slowly jogging for five minutes.

Stretch your glutes/hips, quads, hamstrings and calves. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Remember, this prevents injury and will assist your recovery.

Follow up the stretch with a foam roll to release the tightness in your muscles.

Each week, you'll increase the length of your runs by a quarter mile, which is a lap on most outdoor tracks. If you usually run on roads and you're not sure how far you run, you can figure out the mileage by using mapmyrun.com. Another way to determine the distance of your run is to drive the route in your car and measure the mileage using the car's odometer.

Wednesdays: Do a cross-training workout -- such as biking, swimming or the elliptical -- at an easy-to-moderate effort for 30 to 40 minutes. If you're feeling very sluggish or sore, take a rest day.

Sundays: This is an active recovery day. Your run should be at an easy, comfortable pace.

Note: You can switch days to accommodate your schedule. So if you're busy on another day and prefer to workout on a Monday or Friday, it's fine to swap a rest day for a run day.

A 5K training schedule for beginners:

Week 1

Monday and Friday: Strength train

Tuesday and Thursday: 1 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio for 20 minutes, or rest

Saturday: 1.5 mile run

Sunday: 30 minute run, or cross-train

Week 2

Monday and Friday: Strength train

Tuesday and Thursday: 1.5 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio 20 minutes, or rest

Saturday: 1.75 mile run

Sunday: 30 minute run or cross-train

Week 3

Monday and Friday: Strength train

Tuesday and Thursday: 2 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio 20 minutes, or rest

Saturday: 2 mile run

Sunday: 30 minute run or cross train

Week 4

Monday and Friday: Strength train

Tuesday and Thursday: 2.25 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio 20 minutes, or rest

Saturday: 2.25 mile run

Sunday: 30 minute run or cross-train

Week 5

Monday and Friday: Strength train

Tuesday: 2.5 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio 20 minutes, or rest

Thursday: 2 mile run

Saturday: 2.5 mile run

Sunday: 35 minute run or cross-train

Week 6

Monday and Friday: Strength train (do half as much as before)

Tuesday: 2.75 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio 20 minutes, or rest

Thursday: 2 mile run

Saturday: 2.75 mile run

Sunday: 35 minute run or cross-train

Week 7

Monday and Friday: Strength train

Tuesday: 3 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio 20 minutes, or rest

Thursday: 2 mile run

Saturday: 2.5 mile run

Sunday: 40 minute run or cross-train

Week 8:

Monday: Strength train light

Tuesday: 3 mile run

Wednesday: Cross-train cardio 20 minutes, or rest

Thursday: 2 mile run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: You've reached your goal and it's time for your first 5K! Congratulations, you've made it. When the race is over, don't forget to stretch, rehydrate and foam roll.


For a 5K nutrition plan, including what to eat before and after workouts, contact Lisa Reed or ask her a question on her Facebook page.

Lisa Reed is a certified personal trainer in the D.C. area and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness. Lisa can provide tailored strength training workouts, in-home personal training or group fitness at your office. She also has a circuit training DVD that includes six different workouts, as well as abs and stretching. In addition, Lisa provides nutrition programs designed to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Read more about Lisa at www.lisareedfitness.com. Follow @lisareedfitness on Twitter.

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