The Ultimate Beginners 5k Training Plan & Race Day Tips

The Ultimate Beginners 5k Training Plan & Race Day Tips

If you’re new to running, the 5k distance is often the first challenge you’ll set yourself, which is one reason why parkrun is so popular across the globe.

So how do you get started? I’ve put together the ultimate 5k training plan for you to get up and running in no time and smashing that parkrun, Race for Life or 5k race you may have signed up for.

This plan will include a walk / run approach to going the distance which as a beginner to running, will help you to avoid injury and will keep your energy up for the entire duration of your running session.

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Before you start

I know you’re raring to get going but before we start on the training plan we need to get our ducks in a row and do some preparation to make sure you are fit and healthy right until the end.

All the gear no idea

I know it might seem daunting to go into a running shop and get fitted for your first pair of running trainers but please don’t be put off by them. I was exactly the same and put off getting fitted for the longest time and wore the most awful running shoes even when I was running a half marathon.

From my experience, the people who work in the running shops are more than willing to help you and I’ve found they are very enthusiastic and motivational and you will learn what type of running shoe will fit you best to avoid injury based on your running style.

They’ll get you to try out an array of different styles of running shoe, usually after getting you on the treadmill and analysing the way that you run and recommend the best type of shoe for you. While running is a relatively cheap sport you shouldn’t skimp on the price of a comfortable pair of trainers, you’ll be glad you invested in them in the long run (literally on the really long runs).

I personally believe you can run in anything and have frequently run (at night I might add) in my pyjama bottoms and an oversized hoodie, when I’ve run out of sports clothes or I just couldn’t be bothered to change into something more suitable. However, you may find that clothes specifically designed for sports are more to your liking and comfort. There are some great clothing shops out there that sell reasonably priced sports wear that are also sweat wicking (no one wants a sweaty crotch outline) and new running gear always motivates you to get out there and wear them. It’s a win win!

Make sure you’re healthy

Before you start take a look at your diet and make any changes where necessary. You need to make sure you’re eating enough of the right foods to give you energy for your training runs and that you’re drinking enough water throughout the day to be adequately hydrated, especially in the summer months.

If you’re running in the summer and you feel that you need to take some water along with you, don’t gulp it back as you’ll end up with a very sloshy stomach! Try and take sips of water as you go instead and make sure you hydrate when you get back home too.

If you’re completely new to exercise, I’d recommend speaking to a healthcare professional for advice and a check up just to make sure you’re ok to start running.

Keep up your motivation

Have you tried to take up running in the past but haven’t been able to stick to it? Here are some tips on how you can keep your motivation high to see you through to race day.

Tell friends and family that you’re taking up running as motivation for you to keep going. Telling people that you have a goal makes it more real and makes you more determined to prove anyone wrong that might doubt you (including yourself). You can do this! It might not be easy every day but with running, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Some of your friends or family might want to join you too which is even more motivation when you have a training buddy to spur each other on.

Plan in your runs every week as if you would any other appointment. You need to be making time to run and not fitting in running if you get an opportunity to. Failing to plan is planning to fail and you’re going to make this a success story! Look at your diary and see what time you have to be able to run that week. If necessary try getting up a little earlier and running in the early morning before work. You’ll feel even more smug that you’ve done your workout for the day before most peoples’ day has even started! If you have trouble getting out of bed to go for a run, lay out your workout clothes the night before or even go to bed wearing them so you have no excuses!

If you’re looking for even more tips on how you can get started running, here are 31 tips for running beginners to help you on your way.

The 5k Training Plan

This plan has been designed to incorporate a walk / run approach for anyone who is a beginner to running. Training in this way will ensure that you’ll avoid injury and will also keep your energy and motivation up along the way. Walking to run isn’t wrong, it’s a smart way of making sure you’ve got enough left in the tank to go the whole distance. You can’t expect to go out full guns blazing and smash out a 5k without any training if you don’t already have a base level of fitness.

During the training, listen to your body. Sometimes running can be uncomfortable and it can be challenging in terms of pushing yourself but you should never be in pain. If you’re experiencing pain then you must stop and get checked out with a health professional who can guide you further. If you push through an injury you could end up with a much worse injury than the one you started with and you’ll be right back to the start being unable to train at all and nobody wants that.

Before each run you should be doing a warm up every time. And that means EVERY TIME! I know it’s tempting to skip a warm up when you’re short of time or you just can’t be bothered but please don’t do this. Warming up will prepare your body for exercise and will help you to avoid injury. I’ll usually do a short distance of walking before a run and sometimes do some stretches if I feel I need a little extra.

This also means you should be doing some sort of cool down after your run too. Again, I’ll usually do a short walk at the end of my run and when I get indoors I’ll spend time stretching out any muscle groups that I have worked. If you’re not sure what sort of stretches to do, have a look on YouTube where there are tons of instructional videos on the best stretches for runners.

When you’re running, you should feel like you are pushing yourself a little but not so much that you’re out of breath and can’t talk. If you feel like you’re struggling to breathe, ease off the pace or effort until you feel comfortable.

Equally, when you’re undertaking the walk sections, make sure you’re keeping up the pace rather than reducing it to a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll! This break is meant to be a mini recovery but you should still be putting in some effort here. This is how you’re going to increase your fitness and keep running for longer further into the training plan.

Keep a log of each run that you’ve been out on. If you’re a stats nerd like I am, it will keep you motivated to see your distances get longer and your times improve. Also make a note of how you felt before and after each run and look back on your earlier runs to notice how much different you feel and how far you’ve come.

Don’t have a sports watch but you still want to track your distances? Gone are the days of going out for a run and then hopping into the car to roughly drive the route to find out how far it is (this was me training for my first half marathon in 2012). GPS watches can be expensive and you don’t have to invest in one to get started. I have the Garmin Vivomove HR which is around £130, it doesn’t have GPS but I can use it to play my music and track my heart rate and I’ll use this at the same time as a GPS app such as Map My Run or Strava. I’ve written a full review of the Garmin Vivomove HR which you can read about here.

Comparison between the size of Vivomove HR (left) and the Fenix 5s (right)

If you are looking to invest in a more expensive running watch which includes GPS tracking and will also have a lot more features, I use the Garmin Fenix 5S. This is definitely an all singing all dancing sports watch and it’s helped me get many PBs thanks to the training features which can predict your race finish times and show you how far or ahead you are of finishing in the time you’ve input. It’s also one of the more attractive sports watches on the market for women but the detachable straps means you can customise it depending upon your own personal style. I also like that you don’t have to take your phone with you at all you can use your watch for everything (with the exception of music).

I’ve signed up for my first race! Now what?

Work out your race day as the last day of the 5k training plan, click here for link. Put these dates into your diary to make sure you never miss a day and you know how many weeks you need to get started.

Advice for race day

I’ve put together some useful race day hacks here and give you all of the tips and tricks on having your most successful race along with some race day essentials which you must not miss out on to get you happily across the finish line.

Some basic tips for you to get you started: –

  • Don’t eat anything new the day before a race. You don’t know what might upset your stomach if you’re not used to it so avoid eating anything rich or anything that you haven’t eaten before
  • Don’t wear any new running gear including running shoes and running clothes. Sometimes new clothes, especially sports bras and tops, can chafe in places and you don’t want to be running yourself raw as you’re going about the course. Stick to the clothes you’ve trained in from day one
  • Don’t forget to take your safety pins with you if you’ve been sent your race day bib ahead of time. What will you stick them on with otherwise? If you’re not keen on putting holes in your clothes or you’re as useless as fastening safety pins as I am, check out these magnetic bib fasteners that are much more convenient and stick like a charm.
  • Have a spare set of clothes on you. Sometimes the weather isn’t kind to us and you end up running a race during a downpour. You’ll quickly get cold if you don’t change into some dry clothes once you’ve finished the race so make sure you bring a spare change of clothes with you.

And that’s it folks! If you follow this training plan and tips you’re sure to have a successful race day training for your first 5k. I hope it inspires you to take up running if you’re thinking of doing it and that you continue to want to make running a part of your life.

Running has changed my life in so many positive ways that I’d love to encourage you to take it up too. I’ve travelled all over the country and even gone across the pond to Ireland for a half marathon which was just brilliant. The atmosphere of a race is fantastic and the medal at the end makes it all the more sweeter. You don’t have to sign up for a race though if it isn’t your bag. There are parkruns all over the world that you can turn up to and run if that’s more your scene and there’s a great community of other parkrunners too.

Happy running

ultimate 5k training plan | running for beginners
5k training plan for beginners | Beginners running tips |

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