Runner in park

Signing up for a 5k can be a great way to spice up your fitness routine, but if it’s your first time, figuring out how to step up to the starting line may seem intimidating. Here is a comprehensive “run-down” (see what we did there) of a few things to know to before running your first 5k.

Go the distance

Let’s start with the basics. A 5-kilometer race, aka a 5K, converts to exactly 3.1 miles or 12.5 laps around a standard sized track.

The 5k is the most popular racing distance in the United States, driving around half of all paid entries as recently as 2017. So, chances are high that if you want to run a 5k, but haven’t yet registered for one, it should be easy to find a local race in your area.

Large racing events, like the U.S. Rock ‘n’ Roll® Running Series can also be a fun way to travel to new areas across the country while enjoying a fun-filled weekend of crushing your goals.

Find a plan

Even though 3.1 miles may not sound like a long distance (at least compared to a half or full marathon) it’s still important to follow a structured training plan when preparing for any race. Given the popularity of the 5k distance, free and paid training plans are readily available online and many races also offer training as part of the registration package for their event.

The most important part of considering any training plan is to find one that works for your schedule and aligns with your goals. If you’re completely new to running, finding a plan that incorporates both running and walking is a fantastic way to ease into the sport. Remember to also ensure that your plan also includes adequate rest days. Not only do rest days help you recover physically, but they can also help prevent mental burnout.

Remember to warm up / cool down

A proper warm-up helps you physically – and mentally – ease into a state of activity. According to the Mayo Clinic, warming up preps your body for physical activity by gradually increasing body temperature and increasing muscular blood flow. In a similar way, cooling down helps your heart rate go down and transitions your body back into a non-exercise state.

Before each run aim to spend at least five minutes engaging in dynamic moves that activate key running muscle groups, like your quads and hamstrings. This can include brisk walking or jogging, followed up with some dynamic stretches. Your post run cool down should be similar, including at least five minutes in a slow jog or walk. If you choose to engage in static stretching, just remember to do this after your cool down. To learn more about dynamic and static stretches, check out our post, Dynamic vs. Static Stretching.

Have fun

Most of all, have fun and enjoy the process. Recruit a friend or family member to join you in your training. Some days it may be hard to find that extra dose of motivation, but keep a smile on your face and remember that you’ve got this!