How to Train for Your First 5 Km Race

Book a Race
We all talk a good game. It might even have been on your New Year’s ‘to-do-list’ for the last 3 years. If this sounds like you, take the bold step of actually registering for your first 5 km race. This will give you an immediate incentive to train. Before booking yourself in, make sure you give yourself at least 2 months to train for the run. Another thing to check for before enrolling for a 5 km is the gradient of the course. Some runs can have a challenging hill along the course which might not be ideal if you’re a beginner.

Train using Intervals
The limiting physical factor in most 5 k runs is your bodies ability to process lactate (lactic acid), a chemical compound produced at high levels of exercise. The more you train at higher speeds the more your body will be able to process lactic acid which will enable you to keep running. I often use 400 metre ‘sprints’ with a 100 metre recovery walk with my clients. This exposes the body to lactic acid for short periods but also allows enough time to recover before the next bout.

Don’t get carried away with the ‘runner’s high’! Ensure your training progresses steadily. Start with 2 running sessions per week, build up to 3 per week and then up to 4 over a period of time that is comfortable for you. In terms of running speed, begin at a slow jogging speed and gradually increase as the week progress. If you have never run before, start with 4 minutes walking to 1 minute jogging. Be realistic in the distances you are covering too. For instance, don’t just decide to run 5 kilometres on day one. Build yourself up to that distance.

Every good training program includes rest days. Similar to a bodybuilder who might train different body parts on different days, allowing other body parts to recover, a runner needs recovery days too. Think beyond the impact running has upon your muscles. Every time your foot lands on the floor whilst running, 3.5-4.0 times your body weight is sent through your knee. Allow your joints to recover, as well as ligaments and tendons.

5. Routine on Race Day
Never underestimate the benefit of routine on the day of the race. Make sure you run in the same pair of trainers you have been training in, as well as wearing the same clothes. Nutritionally, eat the same breakfast at the same time as you normally do prior to your morning runs, giving yourself at least an hour before the race. Keeping to the same routine will give you less surprises to deal with on the day so you can concentrate on enjoying your race.

Good luck!!

By Daryl Browne MSc