Training for Your First 5K

Fitness expert, personal trainer and motivational speaker Chris Freytag helps us prep for our first spring race. 

Whether you’re just beginning to run or getting back into the sport, running is a great way to improve your fitness level.  And a 5K (3.1 miles) doesn’t require a lot of preparation. Contrary to the belief that running is “hard,” you could be running a 5K in just two months with as little as three, 30-minute sessions a week. The key is consistency and commitment.

Start out slow and steady. Remember, no matter how slow you go, you are still passing everybody on the couch!


Set a routine. Ease into running by sticking to a schedule. Download the “Couch to 5K” training app right on your mobile device and follow this easy and fun training plan for beginning runners—it’s just 30 minutes a day, three days a week for nine weeks.

Do a pre- and post-workout. A warm-up gets the blood pumping and muscles ready to go. Start your run with some walking lunges or speed walking. Stretch after your workout when your muscles, tendons and ligaments are warm. Hold each stretch for 20 to 40 seconds to reap the benefits—stretching increases blood flow to the muscle and will improve your workout results. If you stretch consistently, you will see improvements in your flexibility and range of motion.

Let muscles and tendons adapt to running. Avoid running two days in a row for at least the first month. Listen to your body. If you have sharp pain, soreness that won’t go away, or you’re feeling very tired, reconsider running that day. Accept and appreciate the fact that not every single run can be a good one.

Mix it up.
 Cross-training is a great way to challenge your muscles, and make running fun. Add in some hills or flights of stairs. On inclement days, hop on the treadmill and use the incline feature or some of the pre-programmed workouts.

What to wear. Moisture management and a comfortable fit are key to feeling good during your training runs.  And don’t forget to pick up a comfortable pair of running shoes!

Get Connected.  New technology can improve your performance, but nobody wants to run—and hold—multiple devices, so multi-tasking is key. Make use of your iPhone or iPod and let one device manage your music, pulse, calories and more. Motivation is the name of the game and feedback fuels that fire. By tracking your stats, you can feel proud of your progress every step of the way.

Fuel your workouts. Hydration is essential to your training. You need 4-6 ounces for every 15 minutes of exercise.  In addition, the size, timing, and content of your pre- and post-exercise meals can help or hurt your workouts. Choose a small pre-workout snack (up to 200 calories) that quickly delivers carbohydrates to your system. After a workout, for optimal muscle repair and recovery, refuel your body with a quality source of protein—the building blocks to your muscles. Choose a post-workout snack high in protein and quality carbohydrates. The best timing for these calories is within 45 minutes of finishing your workout (and no more than two hours after.) It doesn’t have to be a huge portion if it isn’t your mealtime.

Support your community. Sign up for a local 5K race with family, friends or co-workers. There is power in numbers, and nothing is more motivating than improving your health and fitness alongside hundreds of other like-minded people, especially if it’s for a good cause!


Need more help?
Chris picks six products that will get you to the finish line faster.

1. C9 by Champion Running Capri: I love these capris.  They are duo-dry moisture wicking fabric, comfortable low-rise fit and my favorite length—just below the knee. I love the zippered back pockets, too.

2. Scosche myTREK Wireless Pulse Monitor: Seriously—it tracks your pulse, training zone, calories burned, distance run and music, all on your iPhone or iPod. It has no bulky chest straps or wires, and the pulse monitor easily attaches to your forearm for full wireless communication with your device.  Download the app and experience multi-tasking nirvana.

3. C9 by Champion Sports Bra:  A staple in my workout wear.  The C9 racer back sports bra is moisture wicking, seamless and fits a variety of cup sizes.  It’s affordable enough that you can get them in a few colors.

4. Archer Farms Berry Blend Granola Cluster Mix:  A family favorite at my house.  Easy to keep in a baggie and bring along for pre-workout snack or afternoon nosh.  A combo of healthy carbs, protein and fat… keeps you satisfied and gives you energy.

5. Yurbuds IM Inspire Performance In-Ear Headphones: For outdoor runners, these earphones rock. The Twist Lock technology keeps them in place and they are sweat-proof and water-resistant. My favorite feature is a safety one:  These earphones allow for sufficient ambient noise, so when you are outdoors, you always stay aware of your surroundings.

6. Archer Farms Nut Butters:  Nut butters make a great post-workout, protein-rich snack.  Get adventurous and branch out from your usual peanut butter. I love almond butter spread on whole wheat toast, or cashew butter with apples, carrots or celery.

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