A 5K. One of the few times Americans use the metric system.
A 5K is a distance race that is equal to roughly 3.1 miles. Don’t let the word “race” scare you. Many 5K’s are “fun runs” or fundraisers and have a very casual feel to them where many of the people walk. You do you.
Why You Should Do A 5K
Walking/running is a great exercise that is great for your health. It improves your cardiovascular system, reduces stress, can help you lose weight, and numerous other health benefits.
I’m going to tell you some reasons why I think you should complete a 5K and then I’m going to give you some suggestions on how to have a successful 5K.
First, the reasons why:
#1 It’s a concrete goal
One thing that keeps people from exercising is they don’t have a goal. So they’ll do a little weight lifting or a little running and then quit because they’re not working
So, they’ll do a little weight lifting or a little running and then quit because they’re not working towards anything.
They get bored and lose interest.
A 5K is a definite goal that gives you a definite distance to complete on a definite date. Having a clear, definite goal will serve as motivation.
You know what you are working towards and when you complete it, you’ll get a great sense satisfaction.
That satisfaction serves as a springboard for many to complete more 5Ks or longer distance races.
#2 It’s doable
I know this is a hang-up for a lot of people. They think that they can’t do it.
Ok, listen to me…are you listening? You can do it. No, really, you can do it.
What’s great about a 5K is that it is a long enough distance to challenge you but short enough that it is very doable for someone just starting out.
“Yeah but I’m overweight”
You can do it.
“Yeah but I’m old”
You can do it.
“Yeah but I’m busy”
You can do it.
First, no one says you have to run the whole thing. As a matter of fact, there are many people that walk the whole thing and that’s okay.
If that’s the best that you can do, then great! You’re not racing against others. You’re racing against the version of you that would rather sit on the couch and not do anything.
Second, you’re never too old. I’d encourage you to read about Madonna Buder AKA the Iron Nun.
Just so you know, an Ironman triathlon is a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and then a 26.2-mile run. A lot tougher than three miles.
Lastly, you can train for a 5K by walking/running three days a week for less than an hour at a time. Basically, you need to skip three, one-hour TV shows a week.
I think your health is worth it. I hope you do too.
I’ll concede with some of you that you may have a medical condition that would keep you from participating in that level of physical activity but if you’re reasonably healthy, you can do it.
Of course, you always want to get checked out by your primary care provider before starting any exercise program.
#3 5K’s happen year-round
Obviously running outside while it’s warm and sunny is most people’s preference. I hate running in the cold too (but not as much as running on a treadmill).
Weather aside, no matter when you start training for a 5K you’ll be able to find a race that coincides with completing your training.
There are a number of websites that list local running races. Here are a few:
www.active.com – Click 5K under the Run & Sports menu.
You can also google “[your town] 5K” to find some races that may only be listed on a local organization’s website.
Also, check out the bulletin boards at your local gym or running store.
#4 They’re cheap
It’s good that it costs something because you are more likely to stick with your training if you have some “skin in the game”. That being said, though, training and registering for a 5K is still relatively cheap.
There is no recurring monthly gym fee. You don’t need a ton of equipment.
You just need a good pair of running shoes and a safe place to walk/run.
When it comes to registering, a 5K generally costs about $20-$30. For that, you’ll get entry to the race plus some swag that usually includes a t-shirt and sometimes a race medal so not all of it goes to just let you run the race.
#5 They’re simple
I know oftentimes people can be intimidated by certain types of physical activity, for instance, learning how to use all the weight equipment at a gym, swimming for fitness, or learning to play a sport.
Everybody knows how to walk. Most people know how to run. There is a little bit more skill involved with running but I bet it’s safe to assume most people have run at some point in their life.
Right foot, left foot, repeat…for three miles. Simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple.
How To Have A Successful 5K
#1 Start slow
When you start training for a 5K, you don’t need to start off running a mile and a half.
In fact, many of the beginner training plans (called couch-to-5K plans) will start with only walking for your first workout or at least a very large percentage of it is walking.
Just like starting any physical activity, you will experience some soreness the following day (or two). You can minimize this by not overdoing it on the first few workouts.
You can also decrease some of that post-workout soreness by making sure you stay hydrated and stretch afterward.
We all know someone, or have done it ourselves, that decided to get in shape so they do a total body workout with a bunch of weight in one day. The next day, they can hardly move.
Needless to say, they decide the exercise is not for them and give it up. Sound familiar?
Yeah, don’t do that.
Start slow, follow a plan, and find pleasure in whatever progress you make each workout, no matter how small.
#2 Have a plan
There are a TON of couch-to-5K (C25K) plans out there. Google “couch to 5K” and you’ll find plenty of plans to choose from.
There are also plenty of apps for smartphones that you can use too.
You’ll be able to find a wide variety of plans from three training days per week that start with a lot of walking to six days of training that start with running and has resistance workouts too.
The latter are usually designed for people that have some history of physical activity and are shooting for a certain completion time. That’s not most people.
Look for one that works within the time frame you have before your race (more on that in a minute), eases you into the running portion, and has some flexibility in scheduling your workout days i.e. only 3-4 training days.
#3 Register now
You can be ready to complete a 5K, either running or walking, in about eight weeks if you are diligent with your training.
Some C25K plans last longer than that and that’s fine.
What you need to do is find the plan you want to use and then look for a race that happens within a week or two of your last planned workout.
For some plans, the last workout will be your goal race.
Look through some of the sites I mentioned earlier to find a race and go ahead and register now.
Registering before you think you’re “ready” will help motivate you to train. It becomes a real deadline instead of a “maybe”.
#4 Put your training on the calendar
You have to make your health a priority.
If you think you’ll just squeeze in a run after you’ve done everything else in your day, you’re just kidding yourself. It’s not going to happen.
You have to decide that this is important and that it is going to take precedence over other activities, like TV/social media time.
Put your training on your calendar first and schedule everything else around it.
Obviously, some things are going to take priority over your running, like your work schedule or your kids’ practice times, but your training needs to be as high on your priority list as possible.
If you don’t make it a priority, no one else will.
#5 Invite your friends
One of the most influential factors that determine whether or not you will stick with an exercise plan is if you have support from others.
Get some friends together and register for the same race, then train together. Encourage and motivate each other.
Create a Facebook group and post days and times you are going to exercise so if others are free, they can join you. (If you live in the Verdigris area where I’m located, you can join my group here.)
If you have a group of friends that are all at different fitness levels, find a local high school track that you can use. Then, everyone is free to go at whatever pace they feel comfortable with but no one is being left behind.
#6 Remember to have fun
Most people dread the thought of running or any type of exercise for that matter.
They think that it will hurt or that it’s boring or (fill in the blank). If you choose to only focus on the negative then, of course, it’s not going to be enjoyable (that goes for life in general).
Focus on the small victories instead. Are you going to be a little sore after your first few workouts? You bet.
Instead, be proud of the fact that you’ve started training for a 5K, you’re going to accomplish a goal, and you’re improving your health.
Are you going to have days where you don’t feel like running or have a run that doesn’t go as planned? Absolutely.
Instead, focus on how much better you feel than you did before you started and how you couldn’t run for a minute without having to stop but now you can run an entire mile.
Life circumstances will interrupt training, the weather will cause races to be canceled, and injuries happen. The one thing you can control is your attitude and how you respond to these things.
Just remember there is another day to train and there is always another race you can participate in.
On race day, no matter what pace you run your 5K in, remember to enjoy the day. Think about how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished.
You’ve beat that version of you that would’ve chosen to just stay on the couch and that’s what matters.
If you get a finisher medal, take a picture and post it to Facebook. Maybe that will be the first in your collection.
I hope that this post motivates you to at least consider doing a 5K. It’s hard to beat because it’s so simple and cheap to get started.
Now, if the idea of running is less desirable than having all your fingernails removed, then try some other physical activity.
There are plenty of other similar events like bicycling, swimming, rec league basketball or soccer clubs, etc. The drawback here is needing more equipment or access to a pool/gym, but if you enjoy it, then go for it.
The point is to get moving and keep moving to improve your health.
If you have questions about training for a 5K or want to share where your finisher medal pics, leave it in the comments.