The Best Way To Train For a 5k Race

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At Force, we have athletes who compete in all types of sports. We have weightlifters, tennis players, soccer players, golfers, runners, and more. Each of these athletes have specific training plans, and best practices to ensure they perform their best in their sport.

As we approach fall, and the hundreds of running races that take place, we sat down with one of our very own coaches, and expert runner, Emily, to learn the best way to train for a 5k race.

Coach Emily is the head coach of the Indiana Running Club, is the assistant coach for Tri-North Middle School Cross Country, coaches our weekly running group, and has trained for and competed in many running races, including the Boston Marathon.

She recently completed the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon (13.1 miles), and was the 21st female to cross the finish line — out of approximately 30,000 runners! We are thrilled to have such a talented coach guiding our Force runners. Read on to hear what Coach Emily has to say about training for a 5k race;


What is the first step someone should take when they sign up for a 5k?

For someone who is new to running and signs up for their first 5k, your first step should be to reach out to someone experienced whom you trust – a coach or a friend who runs – and work with them to set process goals and develop a plan of action from the present time until race day. As with starting anything for the first time, consistency is key, and it is also the reason most people quit. Set an end goal, set process goals such as how many times you want to walk/run/get in the gym per week, and get someone to hold you accountable when life gets busy or training gets tough.


Does someone need to have a plan to train for a 5k?

Everyone should have some form of plan, but the type of plan depends on your personality. If you are a person who succeeds best when you have a daily workout programmed out for you, then ask a coach to write you a daily training plan so you can see the process all laid out. If you like to be less regimented with your training, then ditch the daily grid and instead, write out your goals for each week and a rough sketch of how and when you are going to accomplish them, and let that act as your guideline. Success in training for your first 5k will be contingent upon habit change – the extent to which you reverse your unhealthy habits and build new, active and healthy habits. Choose the type of plan that will help you be most intentional about habit change.


What is one piece of actionable advice that you would give to a new runner who wants to get faster and prevent injury?

Mix up your training. Don’t just run – that’s how runners, the new as well as the seasoned, get burnt out and/or injured. Find out what else you like to do in terms of getting active – swim or bike twice a week instead of running, and make sure to get in the gym to strength train once or twice a week, with or without weights. Upping your mileage increases the amount of stress on your shins, knees, and hips – so it’s important to work with a knowledgeable coach to improve your mobility and strength in these areas. As I mentioned before, success in your first 5k is mostly about building & sustaining healthier habits. You don’t have to run every other day or even every other day to finish the race – increasing the number of days you’re active in general will allow you to accomplish something you’ve never done before.


Is there a benefit to training with others for a 5k race (or any race in general)?

Personally, I think there is. Having a training partner to meet up with increases the likelihood that you’ll make it out on the trails, to the gym or the pool on those days when you feel tired, busy, unmotivated, or all three.


What exercises/movements outside of running should someone be doing while training for a 5k?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to get in the gym and strengthen your muscles and increase mobility in your joints. Most importantly, work in the gym to improve your single leg stability – single-leg RDL’s, cone touches balancing on a pad, step-ups on a box. Think about it, running is essentially all single-leg stability, and these movements will help improve your balance as well as hip and core strength!


What do you like specifically about the Hoosiers Outrun Cancer 5k race?

Not only does the race provide a big field and excellent competition for runners of every level, but it is an awesome of example of the strength of the Bloomington community. The year first year I volunteered for HOC marked the first time I really felt part of the Bloomington community outside of just IU. Thousands of people of every age gather together to start the morning by gathering together to move and raise money for the Olcott Center, which, thanks to big fundraising events like this, provides people with free information crucial to prevention and early detection. HOC has become something that Bloomington looks forward to every year, and I see people wearing their t-shirts year-round.


Do you have a sample 5k training plan for someone just starting out?

Training for a 5k is highly dependent on your current level of fitness, past experience with running, and more. A good rule of thumb is to gradually build-up your training until you find yourself running 3k-5k per training session. If you have specific goals within the race, I recommend finding a coach to write a specific training plan individualized to your needs.

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