You’ve seen posters all over the place boasting fun 5k races. The Jingle Bell 5k, The Turkey Trot, Rock n’ Roll 5k, MLK5k, the selection is limitless. They are everywhere, and they look like so much fun.
I’m telling you they are; they really are so much fun.
After seeing all of these flashy advertisements, the first big question that probably pops into your mind is, how long is a 5k in miles anyway?
A 5k is 3.1 miles.
With some dedication and a bit of training, you can definitely crush that!
If you want to start running, a 5k is often the first big goal for you to tackle.
And luckily for new runners, there are many programs, such as the “Couch to 5k,” to help you reach that goal.
In this article, we will take a look at:
- The benefits of training for a 5k.
- How to get started on your 5k or 3.1-mile journey.
- All aspects that make up running your first 5k…..(hint: it’s not just running).
- What equipment you will need to run 5k.
- The Couch to 5k walk/run training method.
- 5 Pro Tips when training for your first 5k.
Ready to get moving?
Let’s jump in!
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and run a 5k. This is where it all begins. First the 5k, then the 10k, the half marathon, marathon, and some of us just don’t stop until we hit the ultras! But that’s another article altogether.
For now, the 5k is the big first step on this incredible journey as you enter the big wide world of running.
How many miles in 5k again? 3.1 miles
Why Run a 5k?
I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you don’t need much convincing and have probably already decided that your next big goal is to train and run a 5k. But let’s take a quick peek at some of the fantastic benefits of running in general!
Training for a 5k can:
- Jumpstart a healthier lifestyle and get you into an organized fitness routine.
- Improve your cardiovascular and muscular strength.
- Strengthen your bones and joints. All that launching and landing will toughen you up!
- Improve your sleep patterns. After all of that training, you’ll need your 8 hours a night, I promise!
- Maintain a healthier weight. This will happen naturally when you begin running, and along with a nutritious diet, you’ll be sure to see results.
- Improve mental health. Running can help melt your stress away and give you some me-time.
- Lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. Why not lower our chances of diabetes and heart disease?
Did I mention that it’s fun too? And that runners are bad-ass and can do anything they put their mind to? Also, very critical points to make.
So, now that you are more convinced than ever let’s get started!
How Do I Get Started?
With so many options and so much information it can be overwhelming, but I’m here to lead you in the right direction and get you going!
First thing’s first.
Choose a couch to 5k running plan that’s right for you. It could be a 4-week plan if you are active, already do other types of cardio and are ready and raring to go.
As a coach, a 4-week plan is rushed for someone who is not practicing a sport that includes running or high-impact cardio. I prefer to train my athletes gradually with a slightly longer training plan.
The next step up is an 8-9 week training Couch to 5k plan, leaving time to build up mileage gradually. My personal favorite is a 12-week plan, for non-runners, that is. For those who have never run before and lead a sedentary lifestyle, taking it slow couldn’t be more important.
Complete beginners need to focus not only on running but also on everything else that comes with it. Getting your physical fitness in check is just one piece of the puzzle. Let’s check out some of the other things you’ll need to keep in mind.
Related: What’s A Good 5k Time? Average Times To Run A 5k By Age + Sex
- Running form: From foot placement to avoiding oscillation, there is a boatload of details that need to be learned and then practiced throughout the entire training cycle. There are endless things to focus on such as your arm movement, posture, and leaning just to name a few.
- Running Cadence: Not only do you need to work on your posture and form, but also on how many steps you take per minute.
The ideal number varies, but a good average is around 180 steps per minute. This is not an easy thing to master. Even elites have trouble reaching this number of steps per minute.
- Nutrition and Hydration: Pre-run snacks are not easy for everyone to get used to. Some of us can’t imagine eating or drinking something before going out to train, but this part of running you will need to learn. Later on, you will need to master eating and drinking while running!
Time to check out what gear we will need to start up.
What Gear Do I Need to Train for My First 5k?
Not much, to be honest. That’s the beauty of running. You don’t need much fancy equipment, and can train by just stepping out your front door.
Here’s the list:
- Running shoes that fit. See our fitting guide here.
- Comfortable running clothes.
- A 5k training plan. How long is a 5k in miles again? 3.1 miles!
Couch to 5k Training Method
Before you get worried, you won’t have to run a ton right off the bat! When I work with my Couch to 5k groups for beginners, I always use a run/walk training method. It is literally interval training switching it up between a walk and a light jog, gradually increasing jogging time and decreasing walking time.
Later in the cycle, I also like switching up the jog/run intensity for some fun speed sessions.
At the start of the program, some often feel as though the plan is too easy. If this happens to you, be patient and wait a few weeks. Believe me, those intervals change pretty quickly, and before you know if you’ll be wishing, you were back on week two all over again.
Little by little, you will work your way up to the 5k, or 3.1-mile distance and be race-ready!
5 Pro Tips For Running Your First 5k
#1 Choose a 5k Goal Race
Choose your goal race right away. Don’t just decide which one you will run, but sign up and pay for it right away. That way, you’ll be much less likely to back out. Once you receive your confirmation email, it’s set in stone as far as I see it.
And if you’re searching for that 5k race but all races seem to be in miles, remember how many miles in 5k!
5k in miles is 3.1 miles!
#2 Run With a Friend
If you want this to be a personal goal, so be it, but wouldn’t it be so much more fun with a friend at your side? Get someone else to take this 5k journey along with you; the motivation will be priceless.
If no one is up for the challenge, join a couch to 5k running group and meet a whole bunch of new people who are on the same track as you are.
#3 Compliment Your Running With Functional Training
Remember when I said running wasn’t only running. Functional or weight training is another essential piece to add to the list. While training for a 5k, especially as a beginner, strengthening muscles to protect your joints and the new impact on your body couldn’t be more critical.
I always include a 2-day strength training program with my Couch to 5k training plans to do just that for my athletes. You don’t even need any gym equipment. Everything is bodyweight-based to make it easy and accessible for everyone.
Once you continue running, you may think about picking up some dumbbells and a TRX down the line, but for now, bodyweight is all you need.
This program includes squats, lunges, glute bridges, and planks.
#4 Warm-Up and Cool Down
Don’t skip the before and after training session activities either.
Do a dynamic warm-up before beginning your training sessions and cool down with some static stretching. You can check out some great examples in our articles on both of those topics.
#5 Get Sports Massages
Your muscles will get a bit angry with you, and it will take some time for them to adjust to their new situation, running! They will tighten up, and at some point, you will need to get a massage to get the evil out.
Getting a sports massage once a month or every two weeks is ideal for keeping your body in tip-top shape.
Have I convinced you to do it yet? I hope I have. Crossing that first finish line is an unforgettable experience. And it sure doesn’t end there. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.
Take a peek at this next article on even more tips for your Couch to 5k training plan!