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6-Week Training Program for a 5K Race

By Kim Nunley

Signing up to participate in a 5K race offers an array of benefits, including that it can motivate you to be consistent with your running workouts. If you’ve been running consistently already, the 5K race can act as a reward and celebration for all your hard work. With a 5K race equaling 3.2 miles, even if you’re just starting to run, six weeks is an adequate amount of time to get in shape.

Prepping for Training

Before you head out on your first run, acquire a quality pair of running shoes. Most running stores offer a free fitting. They’ll analyze your running gait and suggest an array of shoes that will provide the cushioning and support you need. Limit the amount of stress on your feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips and back by running on softer surfaces, such as lawn or running track. If those surfaces aren’t available, try to run on the asphalt street rather than a cement sidewalk, which is the hardest surface to run on. Before each run, take five to 10 minutes to perform dynamic stretches. At the end of each run, stretch your hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and calves, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

Training Runs

Over the six-week training period, you will gradually increase your running distance. This ensures that not only your training is comfortable, but that your musculoskeletal system is given the time it needs to adapt to the stress of running as well. Schedule your runs for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. During the first week, make your runs 1.75 miles each. Throughout the second week, kick up your running distance to 2.0 miles. Continue to bump up the distance a quarter mile each week, so that your runs are 2.25 miles during week three, 2.5 miles during week four, 3 miles during week five and 3.25 miles throughout week six. On week six, however, if your 5K race is scheduled for Sunday, don’t run that Saturday as originally scheduled.

Walking Sessions

Incorporating walks into your training can help facilitate recovery. Schedule walks for Sundays. For the first week, walk for a minimum of 30 minutes. Bump up your walking time by five minutes every week, walking for at least 35 minutes for week two, 40 minutes for week three, 45 minutes for week four and 50 minutes for week five. You won’t walk for week six because your race will likely be scheduled that day.

Adding Strength Work

Although not required, you’ll see greater training results and lower your risk of injury if you also incorporate strength training into your regimen. Bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges and step-ups can increase strength and endurance in your glutes, quadriceps and calves, which are the muscles that are primarily responsible for running. Add crunches, front planks and Supermans to strengthen your abs and lower back so that you’re better able to maintain proper posture when you run. Fit in strength training two days per week, ideally on Mondays and Wednesdays, and complete two sets of 12 reps of each exercise.

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