How to Get Ready for Your First 5K

This year might be the year you decide to try your first 5K, and it could easily seem like a daunting task — especially if you’ve never thought of yourself as much of a runner. If this is the case, fear not. Running in — and finishing — a 5K can be done, even by those who aren’t inclined to run for it on a daily basis.

Crossing the finish line is well within your reach if you’re willing to set SMART goals, stick to your workout plan, and use a couple of pre-run strategies. Here’s three tips to help you make it to the finish line.

Phase 1: Set Those SMART Goals

If you’ve never run a 5K before then the best goal you can set for yourself is to actually finish the race. Seems simple enough, right? Completing a 3.1 mile run is definitely something to work towards, so it may be in your best interest to set your goal with a couple of tiers — just in case you aren’t ready to cross the finish line full-stride. I would recommend setting this goal on a grade scale like school grades: A-Rank: Run the entire 5K. B-Rank: Run and jog most of the 5K. C-Rank: Jog and walk most of the 5K. Setting your goals this way give you room to make adjustments while still being able to end the 5K with an achievement and a clear measure of either how far you’ve improved or how far you have to go.

Phase 2: Get in Shape for the Race

Now that you’ve got your goals in order, the real work begins! It’s best to start training well in advance so that you can work your way up to 5K at a gradual pace. A lot of the seasoned runners measure their progress by keeping track of how many miles they run in a week. I highly recommend this online guide by the Mayo Clinic to help you figure out how many miles to aim for each week. One thing to remember — progress isn’t linear. If you miss a day or don’t reach the goal for a week, that’s alright. Keep that in mind and use it as motivation to hit the next couple of runs even harder.

Be mindful of how well you’re able to stick to your fitness plan and where you may be falling short — there may be a pattern that should be addressed. If you have a friend that’s planning to run the 5K with you, it may be a good idea to reach out to them about running together to get race ready. One of the benefits of Planet Fitness is that most of their locations are open 24 hours a day to allow flexibility with your schedule. There are plenty of benefits to a gym buddy, but one of the biggest is that they can help you avoid burnout.

Phase 3: Prep for Race Day

In the week leading up to the race day be sure to get plenty of sleep. This is crunch time, so you’ve got to get focused. Hopefully your fitness plan included a good diet, but even if it didn’t now’s not the time to change things up. You don’t want to introduce your body to new foods or different activities before the race.

As race time steadily approaches, you should be confident in your ability to complete the race thanks to the training you’ve done leading up to this moment.Chances are, whatever 5K you’re running will have a nifty packet of info for you to read over and a bib number, so get that handled and relax with your new reading material for a bit. Be mindful of any changes or adjustments that may need to be made last minute due to weather or other factors, and if you can, try to visualize the course (they should have given you a map as well because signage isn’t always clear).

By now, you should be getting prepared to step up to the starting line. This is the moment you’ve worked for. You’ve made a plan and set goals. You’ve maintained a workout regiment and [hopefully] a healthy diet. You’re well rested and ready to go. There’s nothing left to do but decide how you’ll celebrate once you cross the finish line.

Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set unafraid to take on topics head on. He now resides in Austin, TX and continues to create content on a daily basis.