Crush Your First 5K With These 8 Expert Tips

Emily Abbate
by Emily Abbate
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Crush Your First 5K With These 8 Expert Tips

Trust us, you’ll remember your first 5K forever. Those nerves that pop up before you even toe the starting line. The T-shirt you rock through the first mile, drenched in sweat before you crossover to the second. And of course, that remarkable feeling of success once you run by the finish, arms thrown into the air with success. If you have yet to crush your inaugural 5K, there’s hope for you yet. Here, eight experts give you their top tips for a race to remember:

1. PICK A COURSE THAT INTERESTS YOU

There are a whole lot of things that you should take into account when choosing your first competition. Maybe you’re looking for something that rolls along a coastline or perhaps something that’s quite flat. Whatever your poison may be, choose something that feels doable for you. “Taking a look at the course before will help you get a visual idea of where you are during the race,” says John Cianca, an Equinox Precision Running coach . “Always be mentally prepared.”

2. FOLLOW A SMART TRAINING PLAN

“It’s super important to start building your aerobic base by establishing a training plan with a proper amount of training days (both running and strength training) and rest/recovery days,” says Olivia Amato, a Peloton Tread instructor. “When you’re a total newbie, it could help if all of your runs include both walking and running.” Starting from scratch? Try one of these MyFitnessPal 5K plans for beginners.

3. GEAR UP

“Make sure you’ve invested in the proper running sneakers,” suggests Matty Maggiacomo, a Peloton Tread instructor. “Too many people grab the old pair they wore in college, which is basically like running a car on flat tires.” A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed the right clothes can make you focus and perform better.

4. PROMINENTLY POST YOUR TRAINING SCHEDULE

Out of sight, out of mind. That’s why you want to post your training schedule somewhere prominently to keep you motivated. “Putting it up can help keep you accountable,” says Amato. Do yourself a favor and make it look visually pleasing, while you’re at it. This way, you won’t mind staring down that Monday 3-miler.

5. TAKE TIME TO WARM UP

“Warming up is so, so important,” says Karli Alvino, coach at treadmill studio Mile High Run Club in New York City. Taking the time to get your muscles totally prepped for activity wakes up the neuromuscular connections needed to get muscles working.

6. TRAIN WITH A BUDDY

“You’re increasing your chances of success and decreasing the probability that you will shy away from your training plan if you have somebody to train with,” says Maggiacomo. In a university study cited in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, those who recruited three friends or family members to assist them in their quest to lose weight had better weight-loss results than those who had no buddy system. Remember, your partners can be with you every step or virtually.

7. PACE YOURSELF

“Going too fast in the beginning can come to bite you in the end,” says Cianca. “Save your energy for the big finish. As you become more experienced, you can learn how to push yourself at different points of the run without becoming depleted too early.”

8. ACCEPT RACE DAY AS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT

“You’re probably not going to win this race, and that’s OK,” says Lindsey Clayton, a Barry’s Bootcamp instructor and co-founder of Brave Body Project. “It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow, you’re doing this because you want to try something new, get fit, run with friends, have fun or accomplish a goal. Be proud of yourself for getting out there and trying in the first place.”

About the Author

Emily Abbate
Emily Abbate

Emily has written for GQ, Self, Shape and Runner’s World (among others). As a certified personal trainer, run and spin coach, she’s often tackling long runs or lifting heavy things. In addition to that, she’s working on Hurdle, a podcast that talks to badass humans and entrepreneurs who got through a tough time —a hurdle of sorts— by leaning into wellness.

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