How To Run Your First 5K

You want to run a 5K, but where do you start?

It can seem stressful to start planning your first 5k. You may be coming back from a period off from running, you might be coming from a nonathletic background and are ready for a new challenge, or you may just want to organize your training a bit better. Continue reading our article below to get a better idea on how to run your first 5k. 

Keep reading for our 7 most important steps to get you on the right foot for your first 5K finish.

How To Run Your First 5K: Check out our NEW 5K Program

Check out The Run Experience website to see our 5K training program. 

Having a roadmap to your race is super important to stay consistent with your training and to run your most successful race. Plug the schedule into the days that work best for you and try your best to stick with it.

How To Run Your First 5K: Choose The Right Shoes For You

Finding the right pair of shoes is very important, but there are so many out there that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with style, colors, and brands. Check out our video below to get a better idea on how to narrow down your choices.

Shoes come in 4 styles according to their cushion and support: Maximal, Stability, Neutral, and Racing Flats.

Maximal shoes are usually high cushioned and focus more towards recovery and long runs.

Stability shoes come with less cushion, but usually, have support by the arch to help correct a runner’s gait, improving their overall posture.

Neutral shoes are the most versatile out of the 4 categories. They can be worn for speed work, daily running, and ,if well-acclimated, long runs. They are less corrective than the stability shoe and provide more response to the foot from the ground.

Racing flats provide a barefoot-like response to the ground. They are beneficial for increasing foot arch strength. They are also the lightest of the 4 and for the more advanced runner. These shoes have a transition period and should not be interchanged quickly from neutral shoes.

If you’re new to running it’s best to stick to one basic shoe to keep things simple. Remember, regardless of brand, what’s most important is the fit and purpose of your shoe.

How To Run Your First 5K: Always Warm Up Before You Run

Concentrating on a decent warm up before every workout gives you a leg up on injury prevention and benefits your recovery. By performing a warm-up, you heat up your core temperature and prepare your joints and muscles for movement. The focus of your training isn’t just the workout, but also how you prepare for it.

Check out our video below to get a good understanding of how to warm up for your next run.

Warm up your body by jogging for 5-10 minutes.

It’s super important to then warm up your hips and hamstrings. They’re essential for pulling your feet underneath your body, as well keeping your body in a straight, neutral position while you run.

Perform 5- 10 slow air squats. This helps prepare the hips for movement as well as warm up your quads and ankles.


Next, keeping your chest lifted and stomach tight, swing each leg 5-10 times. This also warms up and loosens your hips. This is especially great if you spend most of your day sitting.

Working down the body, next warm up your calves and shins with toe and ankle walks.

Once your tissues are ready for work add in a bit of dynamic movement with single leg hops.

 You’ll finish your warmup by touching on a bit of speed work. This helps increase blood flow to all the extremities as well as increasing your core temperature in preparation for your workout.

An example of a short and sweet warm up is a stride warm up. With strides you want to find a good distance, 100m, or one long side of a track. As you begin running the distance, gradually ramp up your speed, resting 20-30 seconds between each set.

How To Run Your First 5K: Perform These Drills To Become A More Efficient Runner

Running with an inefficient form is like cooking without the right ingredients. While training for your 5K, you’ll want to spend some time evaluating and fine-tuning your running mechanics.

By bringing awareness to how you run, it allows you to fully express proper foot to ground contact. This helps prevent injuries, promotes speed, and helps you move more efficiently as a runner.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are my feet underneath my hips? Does my torso rotate? Is my spine straight or rounded?

 Below are our 7 favorite running form drills that you should incorporate after your warm up. 

Heel-toe rocking
Hopping drill
High Knees
Butt Kick
Inseam Pull
Stable arm drill
Carioca

The video below will give you a better understanding of how to perform each drill and incorporate them into your running workouts.

How To Run Your First 5K: Add In These Cadence Drills To Your Training Plan

Cadence = the number of times your feet hit the ground in a minute. By working on cadence you improve how fast your feet connect with the ground, ultimately increasing your speed. With a faster cadence, you are more likely to keep your feet under your hips, therefore running more efficiently.

To improve your cadence, check out the video below and try the workout yourself!

There are several free metronome apps available on your smartphone. Find one that works for you and let’s get running!

To find your baseline cadence, run in place and count the number of steps you take in 1 minute.

Got your number? Great! Set your metronome to that number (ex: baseline= 175; set the metronome to 175 beats per minute). You will be repeating short run intervals, which can be done of a track for 600m (1.5 laps), or on the road for about 30 seconds.

Start your workout:
1st Interval = Baseline (test result)
2nd Interval = Increase by 5 steps per minute (1st was 175, 2nd = 180 BPM)
3rd Interval = Increase again by 3 steps per minute (175, 180, 183 BPM)

How To Run Your First 5K: Make Sure To Always Cool Down After A Run

Resist the urge to jump in the shower or car as soon as you’re done running. Start your cool down by walking to first get your heart rate down. Afterward, follow along with this video to stretch out and flush the tissues. This, or a similar cool down, should be done after every workout.

Begin first with a side bend. This move opens your side and adds a little stretch to your spine.

Turn towards your outstretched leg, reaching as far down as possible, giving your hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your leg) a good stretch.

Next up is a soccer stretch. Focus on keeping that back nice and straight so you can achieve the optimal twist. Every movement you perform is initiated through the spine first so it’s SUPER important to give it some love as well.

Finally, downward dog. This move is a great stretch to open the hamstrings and the ankles. Feel free to bend and pedal your feet, taking your dog for a little walk.

How To Run Your First 5K: Mobilize Your Muscles And Tissues

Alright guys, this is the bookend to your running routine. It’s super important to incorporate at least 10 minutes of mobility/injury prevention exercises every day. Your joints and muscles can get stiff with either repetitive movements and/ or the stress of a workout. By using either a foam roller, a ball, and/or a PVC pipe, you can restore full range of motion to your tissues and keep them happy.   

Follow along with Coach Kirk with 3 great lower leg restoration and injury prevention exercises.

To massage your lower leg muscles, grab a PVC pipe,or in Kirk’s instance, a broomstick. Roll out your calves down to your ankles just like you would with dough and a rolling pin.

Using a golf ball and/or lacrosse ball, sandwich the tissues surrounding your shins to release tightness that can build up over a run.

Increase the range of motion in your ankle by sitting back in a kneeling position and pulling up on the knee while pressing your ankle into the ground.

How To Run Your First 5K: Prepare For Race Morning

Most importantly, arrive at the race start early. Make sure you have plenty of time to deal with race day logistics. Depending on the size and location of the race, parking and walking to the start line could take a good 20-30 minutes. Study the layout of the race and form a plan of action the night before so that getting to the starting line isn’t the most stressful part of your race.

How To Run Your First 5K: Your Race Day Warm-up

Once at the race site, be sure to perform a proper warm up, just like you’ve practiced. Don’t let the first mile of your 5K be your warm up; the shorter the workout or run, the longer the warm up should be.

Check out the video above and use some of these moves the morning of your race!

Perform a shakeout jog up to 10 minutes to get your core temperature warm, focusing on breathing and the proper running mechanics you’ve practiced in your dills.

Follow up that run with a dynamic warm-up, choosing up to 3 movements that will sufficiently warm up the joints and tissues. (Suggested movements: arm circles, leg swings, and lunges).

Finish with some strides to maximize full running capacity for your hip, lungs, and chest.

With a solid warm up you’re ready for a great day. Let this race be an expression of all the work you’ve put in on your form, breathing, and your cadence!

If you want to learn more about how to run your first 5K or how you can train with us, check out our running community at The Run Experience Training Club. There you will have access to race-specific programs, daily videos and workouts, as well as an online community!