Running a 5K is an exhilarating experience.  For beginners it can be the first step toward falling in love with the adrenaline of racing and all the excitement that’s associated with the sound of the start gun.  Many runners will tell you that the 5K was their gateway race, the experience that led them deep into the world of 10K’s marathons and a whole pile of race t-shirts.

For experienced runners the 5K can be a great change of pace and a nice way to keep yourself active and involved. Whatever your level, there are a few must knows that will help prepare you for the big day.

1. Set a Date

The first step in training for a 5K is actually committing to a date.  Check in with your local running shop, running clubs, or search online at,, or a few other sites for a calendar of upcoming races.  Depending on where you live, you may have a choice between charity runs, brand sponsored runs, or even runs that measure winners not by the fastest time, but by who guesses their time most accurately before they actually run the race.

Most runners start training for their 5K about 6 to eight weeks before the race, so keep that in mind when setting a date.  Then stick to a regimen to get yourself ready.

2. Maintain Your Ideal Running Weight

Tom Osler of “Serious Runner’s Handbook” fame once said that for every pound of extra weight you put on your running performance decreases by two seconds each mile.  This may not sound significant, but when you start to become more competitive as a runner, this will actually make a difference.  Also, if you’re ten pounds overweight this would mean that theoretically, your overall 5K time will increase by one minute.

In other words, make smart dietary decisions.  Make sure you’re getting enough fuel to support your training regimen and maintain a healthy running weight.

3. Make a Goal

Every step of every run should go toward achieving a specific goal.  Keep your goal time in mind when setting out on your training and use that to push yourself to run at that pace.  More advanced runners looking to beat their personal record should look into pace progressive workouts to help them achieve their goals.

4. Create a Schedule

There’s no one size fits all schedule for preparing for a 5K.  Everything changes based on your goal time, how long you’ve been running, which days work for long workouts, and more.  Below you’ll find a couple sample programs worth working off of depending on your level of expertise.

5. Add Cross Training

Adding variety to your workout has been proven to maximize training efforts significantly.  Try biking, swimming, plyometrics or other effective means for cross training.  Also, see our strength training articles for some tips for how you can use the weight room to make yourself run faster, stronger and longer with less effort.

6. Schedule for Beginning Runners

Feel free to change the days depending on your availability, but remember to give yourself a bit of rest between runs rather than bunch your run and rest days consecutively each week.

7. Schedule for Intermediate Runners

Please note that the interval workouts should not stand alone. Add a warm up to your Tuesday interval runs so that you’re adequately warmed up before running/sprinting and jogging/walking your 400 meter intervals.