'Tis the Season for 5Ks: How to Train

| Fitness

From the rookie to the veteran runner, preparing for a 5K is all about smart planning and sticking to it. If you're training on your own or joining a running group, you need to commit to a method that works best for you. Aside from running and building your endurance, you'll also need to cross train a little and keep your diet clean. You want to cross that finish line feeling good!

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FOR BEGINNERS

If you're ready for your first 5K, but you're not really running, yet, keep reading. The most important step is the first one. That's exactly what you'll do — walk — for the first few days or weeks, depending on your timeline. You need to keep a brisk pace, about 20 minutes per mile. Try knocking out one mile a day until you can build up to 2 miles, 2.5 miles, then 3.1 miles.

Add bursts of running to your walk. Create a run-walk pattern on your route. Use land markers like the big oak tree or the little red house to signal your starts and stops. But don't stop! Keep moving and stick to your original plan.

Build up to running the first mile, walking no more than a quarter-mile before you begin running again. Find a pace you can handle. The race isn't happening just yet! Click here for inspiration to enjoy your run.

Keep up your plate. Stock up on protein with lean meats like chicken and fish, raw, unsalted nuts and low-sugar Greek yogurts. Avoid starchy foods and breads. Carb up on good carbs like apples, lentils, bananas and healthy granola. Get a water bottle you can bring with you anywhere and everywhere. Fill it with lemon water for extra energy and digestive assistance.

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Example schedule for week 1:

  • Day 1: Walk a half mile or 1 mile if you're feeling good.
  • Day 2: Walk 1 mile.
  • Day 3: Cross train with Blast Arm Jiggle: Part II [VIDEO].
  • Day 4: Walk 2 to 2.5 miles at your 20-minute per mile pace or faster.
  • Day 5: First run-walk for 1 mile.
  • Day 6: Cross train with Rock your Core [VIDEO].
  • Day 7: Run 1 mile.

FOR EXPERIENCED 5K RUNNERS

If you can already run 30 minutes without stopping, but you're looking to improve your speed and time, keep reading. You should be running four times a week. If you run more than this, you may unnecessarily fatigue yourself or not allow proper time for full muscle recovery. Each run should be between 1.5 to 3.5 miles.

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Start tracking your progress. Falling into a routine can be good and bad. It might become difficult for you tell what kind of progress you're making or even feel motivated to make that progress. Try downloading an app like Runkeeper, UP by Jawbone or Couch-to-5K. What are your goals? Perhaps you want to improve your mile-by-mile time, your hill skills, your breathing — whatever it might be, make that your focus.

Cross train twice a week. Strength training is huge for runners. This doesn't equate to big weights. Doing body weight workouts like Pilates and circuits will improve your muscle function. A stronger core will better steer you to cross that finish line in full control of your body. Click here for a Buzzworthy 8-Minute Abs Routine video.

>> Read more: Exercises Every Runner Should Rock

Add a speed workout. When you run a 5K or any type of long-distance race, you're used to setting a pace and sticking with it. Try adding a speed workout on a track or open space where you can throw in sprints. Speed training is crucial to working the fast-twitch muscle fibers that are extremely useful in bursts during your race. You won't work these fibers with regular running.

Speed Workout Example

  • Warm up properly with dynamic movements and light jogging.
  • Build-Up Sprint: Begin with a light jog and build your speed to a full sprint within 100 meters. Repeat four to six times.
  • Fatigue Training: Before HIIT workouts became trendy, there was Fartlek training. This is when you work as hard as you can until you need to stop, then you take your time to fully recover and begin again. Incorporate this into your runs by sprinting up to 100 meters to a selected marker. Jog or stop until you feel recovered and repeat four to six times.
  • Hill Skills: Find a decent grade to complete a continuous circuit of uphill sprints and downhill jogs. Do a recovery lap after each sprint lap, then reverse it by jogging uphill and practicing your sprints downhill. Tip: When running downhill, lean slightly backward to keep your body upright and lengthen your stride instead of shortening it. Click here for more ways to make your run easier.

Stay focused on your training and enjoy it. Whether you're solo or working with a group, don't lose motivation. When the race day comes, you might feel a little nervous, but that first mile will knock out those butterflies and you'll be crossing the finish line before you know it!