How to run your first 5K

Follow these tips to make your first five kilometres both enjoyable and rewarding

May 26, 2021

Starting running for the first time or getting back into it after an extended break can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be if you follow these simple rules that are designed to help make your first five kilometres enjoyable, rewarding and injury-free. 

1. Start slow and run/walk

There are lots of great beginner running training programs and apps to help get you started, so do your research to find the one that’s suitable for you. A free and easy to use one is the Nike Run Club app.  

One approach is to get out two to four times per week for run-walks. Start with a 4 x 4 program, which means walk four minutes then run one minute (or 30 seconds if one minute feels too much). 

Slowly increase either the running time component or the overall time component, but don’t increase both at once.

2. Take your time 

If your goal is to be able to run five kilometers then give yourself plenty of time to train to achieve this. The amount of time it will take you to be ready to run this distance depends on your current fitness level, any previous running experience, and your goals. It’s tempting to lock yourself into a time period such as eight weeks, but it’s best to use the 10 percent rule to guide your training.

This means that wherever you start (e.g. time or distance) then increase the mileage or time by up to 10 percent a week. It’s tempting to do more, but this tried and tested approach can help you stay injury-free. 

Every person’s body is different and will adapt at different rates, so you should not be afraid or ashamed of taking longer than your peers to reach your goal.

3. Running and rest days

How many times a week you walk/run is highly dependent on what exercise you’re currently doing. PhysioTrain recommends starting with two to four sessions a week. 

Giving your body time to rest and recover after each training session is vital. Every beginner’s running program should include rest days. These can look like complete rest or a short easy walk.

Running uses many muscles, and to help prevent injury as well as support your progress, strength training is a non-negotiable. Strength work is extremely important for everyone, especially runners, but it doesn’t necessarily mean pumping iron at the gym. 

Sufficient strength work can be done at a PhysioTrain exercise or Pilates class or even in a park or your lounge room. Core strength training (not just the abs) but also the glutes and hamstrings, is more important than you might think because these muscles do the bulk of the heavy lifting when you run.

If you’re not sure what strength training exercises to do, then get advice from a one of our Physiotherapists and don’t forget to do some type of mobility or massage routine, such as a foam roller session, a few times per week.

4. Rookie mistakes 

While running is the most pure, universal activity, like any newbie there are a lot of traps that runners can step into if not careful. One of the most common mistakes people make when starting or coming back to running is increasing load too quickly. 

Put it down to excitement and enthusiasm, but many runners do too much mileage, too fast, too soon. They run on rest days without letting the body recover and mistakenly think more is better. 

The human body is capable of great things. Despite us being able to go for a longer or faster run, it doesn’t mean that we should. If we do something our body is not ready for, injury and illness are likely to result, and you may lose interest in running altogether.

5. Build a team 

To cross the five kilometre finish line, runners should get help from a range of sources. Find friends who like running, join a running crew/club or engage an accredited running coach to develop the right plan to help you achieve your goals. And don’t let little niggles become big injuries. See a Physiotherapist or massage therapist early to get professional help to make sure you can reach your goal of running 5K.