Your First 5K



A while back, I detailed a few things you need to know about tackling that mother of all running contests, marathons. You obviously don’t need to know all that stuff until you’re running more (like, 40km-a-week more), and in fact, like a lot of people, you might be just now getting into it. And after running your 6 klicks a week, you might be looking at those people running those 5k charity runs with envious eyes. Make no mistake: when you’re just starting out, 5km is a long run. But you can do it. And this is how.


If you’ve never run this kind of distance before, you’ll have to build up your endurance.

Incoporate intervals into your jogging, alternating heavy running with light jogging, which will increase your anaerobic threshold. The longer you can keep up the heavy running, the better you get, so try to do this at least twice a run.

Also try to increase how long you can run continuously, which which will help increase your aerobic endurance (your body’s ability to supply oxygen to your muscles).

If you’re just starting out, Livestrong’s Luann Voza recommends training with “intervals of walking and running to improve cardiovascular endurance. Start with intervals of 15 seconds for running and 45 seconds for walking for a total of 30 minutes. Alternate training between run/walk days, walk days and rest days. Gradually increase to 30-second run, 30-second walk intervals. Increase total mileage on a weekly basis, starting from 3 miles, working up to 4.5 miles.”

Voza also recommends learning to breathe properly, to maximize your endurance. She suggests using “a 3:2 ratio of inhalation to exhalation based on your foot strides. Fully inhale for three strides and fully exhale for two strides. This will lower your breathing and heart rate, allowing more oxygen and blood to be circulated. For a faster, more intense pace, use a 2:1 inhale to exhale ratio.”

But proper breathing isn’t necessarily enough. Try to add weight, cardio and strength training to your routine to help reduce fatigue, strengthen your muscles and increase oxygen consumption.

Once the big day comes, you’ll be ready.


Before the run, you’re going to want to warm up and do some stretches. Do some push-ups, squats and, if you’re stuck in a small place, try out some Cardio In A Small Space.

You can go for a small warm-up run, but be sure not to tire yourself out. You’re just trying to get your muscles warmed up so you can stretch.

In terms of what to eat, we actually had a whole article on this subject a while back. You can read that for the full breakdown, but here’s the basics:

It’s probably best to avoid drinking milk or dairy products, which take a lot of time to break down. Ditto broccoli and beans, which produce a gigantic amount of intestinal gas. Avoid anything with too much fibre, and skip the fast food.

Instead, this is one of the few times where you don’t have to feel guilty about eating empty-calorie white bread. White bread is basically made of carbs and nothing, so it breaks down faster than your ancient grains loaf, which, while healthier, will just sit in your stomach, produce gas, and take up space.

Go for fruits and veggies that don’t have a skin. Fruits with skin (apples, etc.) tend to have a lot of fibre and sugar, which won’t help you. Bananas give you carbs and potassium, so they’re a go. Lightly salted carbs like popcorn also make for good fuel, because they’re easy to break down and help you rehydrate.

Otherwise, drink plenty of water and take along a sports drink to help avoid overheating

On the run, I recommend bringing along music, which can help you run longer without noticing your fatigue, but don’t turn the volume up so loud you can’t hear traffic. A few running blogs warn against wearing music when running on a highway, but, instead, I think you’ll be good just making yourself aware of the volume control function. If you can’t hear an incoming car barrelling down the 401, then Skrillex is brostepping too hard.


Once you’re set, and you have the proper equipment, it’s time to run. Make sure to bring something to keep you hydrated, and get going.

Honestly, I’m excited for you. Once you’ve got a 5K under your belt, a whole world of running opens up to you. You can start packing in the distance, moving up to 20, or even 30 km a week. And once you’re up to something like 40 km a week, well, that’s when you can start training for that marathon.

But for now, focus on the 5k. You’ll do fine.



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