How to Train for a 5K

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For new runners, signing up to complete a 5K race can represent a big commitment. It takes time, dedication and proper preparation.

So where should you start?

“New runners need to let their physician know if they are starting a new exercise regimen, since some medical conditions may impact their ability to handle the new activity,” said Kayla O’Neal, DPT, Physical Therapist at Archbold’s Outpatient Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center.

After getting clearance to start training for a 5K race, the first step is to begin training with the correct mindset.

“Training for a 5K takes consistency and commitment, and the ability to train for at least 30 minutes, five days a week,” said Kayla O’Neal, . “Walking and running for at least 30 minutes each day is the best way to prepare for a race. Being consistent should be a priority, even if that only means walking for 30 minutes instead of running.”

Before beginning the daily workout, have a quick stretch session and a 5-minute walk to warm up your leg muscles. After completing the daily workout, it’s important to properly stretch your legs and hips, holding each stretch for a duration of two minutes. Ask your doctor about stretches that would be best for you.

In addition to training, proper sleep, hydration and nutrition all impact balance endurance and mental acuity. It’s also important not add on or start any new intense exercise regimens.

“While preparing for a 5K, it is recommended that participants not begin any new high intensity workouts,” said O’Neal. “However, if high intensity workouts like Cross Fit and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are already a party of your workout regimen, continue with those activities.”

The most important equipment for running is properly fitted running shoes. The race surface will determine the proper shoe. Some shoes are made specifically for trail running, and some are made specifically for road running.

“Runners can have a postural assessment performed by a physical therapist to have specific recommendations or find an independent retailer that takes time to measure your feet properly,” said O’Neal. “I strongly recommend this if running will turn into a regular activity.”

Most running injuries come from overusing muscles. Tendinitis, muscle strains and ankle sprains are common running-related injuries. These issues usually arise from not taking the time to perform aftercare. They also occur when runners “push through” discomfort instead of seeking appropriate medical care when feeling pain.

If an area of the body begins to consistently hurt, stop training and consult with a physician or physical therapist.

Leading up the day of the race, make sure hydration, nutrition and sleep are being prioritized. Take the day off before the race and do something that will provide mental clarity and peace.


“Remember that you don't have to actually run the entire distance of the 5K race. Walking or doing a combination of jogging and walking are also great options,” said O’Neal. “Address any health concerns with a physician or physical therapist before a race. We can help participants safely prepare for the race and cheer everyone on.”