Training for a 5K is an attainable goal for anyone, and with numerous races occurring every weekend, 5Ks are easily accessible, family friendly, and a great test of your running progress.
Before you can set a training schedule, it is necessary to know how much time you need to train. Active people may only need 4 weeks to get into 5K shape, while sedentary people will require 8-12 weeks to get going. Search for 5Ks in your area and you will likely find at least one every weekend during the peak of the running season. Choose a date that works for you and commit in advance.
Or walk, depending your fitness levels. A common misconception about 5K races is that you should be able to run 3.1 miles immediately. Everyone has to start somewhere, and that's what training is for! Do not be discouraged, as discouragement is the downfall of many potential runners. Trust that your body will adapt to training and, if you are motivated and committed, you will undoubtedly reach your goal.
This is where to start if you are going from 'couch to race'. Set a schedule of alternating training days to allow for adequate recovery and injury prevention (ex. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday).
Each day, aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. This can be accomplished by alternating walking with running. Start your 30 minute session by walking and set small running goals along the way. Try running for 15 seconds at first, walk until you recover, then run for 15 seconds again. Keep going until you have been moving for 30 minutes. Next time out, challenge yourself to 30 second runs. Next time try 1 minute. Stay true to this program and you will see yourself improve tremendously. Before you know it, running will begin to get easier and easier, thus letting you push yourself harder and harder.
Once you are able to run for about 10 minutes at a time, you should be able to carry on at a conversational pace. This means that you should be able to talk while you are running. Try to keep this pace up for 20 minutes. Next time, try for the full 30 minutes at a conversational pace. Once you reach this point rest assured knowing you will be able to complete the entire 5K.
In any form of exercise people often complain of the plateau, the point where no matter how hard they work, progress comes to a halt. At this point try running for 35-40 minutes on the weekend, alternating jogging with running, or adding one day of cross training, such as biking or swimming. These will keep your training fun, help you avoid the plateau, and propel your progress even further.
Don't let the adrenaline disrupt your pace too much! Enjoy the day, trust your training, and even though true success is in the journey, be proud as you cross the finish line. Crossing the finish line in your first 5K is just one step in reaching your fruition.