3 Tips for Running Your First 5K

by Matthew Maxwell, MD
January 4, 2019

Every year, thousands of runners across the U.S. complete 5K races, which is equivalent to 3.1 miles.

Most people who are new to running shouldn’t just step out the door and attempt to run a 5K. Doing so can put you at risk for injuries, dehydration, and feeling like a failure if it doesn’t go right from the get-go.

In fact, it takes the average person about four to eight weeks to get in shape with a 5K training program. As you get ready to start your own 5K training regimen, consider these three key ways to prepare for the challenge.

Preparing for a #5K? Discover three tips from #SportsMedicine expert Dr. Matthew Maxwell, via @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog.

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1. Eat a Proper Diet

Before You Run

Prior to running a 5K, fuel your body with foods that include carbohydrates and protein, which will provide the energy you need to get through the run.

Hydration is also key. Try to drink half your body weight in ounces of water—for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water before running. Your gender, age, and how much you sweat can influence how much water you need, so it’s important to monitor how often you urinate and the color of your urine. If you are adequately hydrated, you should be urinating about once every two to four hours and it should be clear or pale yellow in color.

During and After Your Race

Consider carrying a healthy snack or drink with sugar in it during your run in case you need a quick energy boost. Consuming fruit, such as bananas and raisins, or alternating between Gatorade and water is a good way to do this. Once you’ve completed your run, drinking chocolate milk can help refuel you, providing protein to rebuild and repair your muscles and sodium to help with hydration.

In addition, try different foods during training to see what works best for you, then stick with those foods during the race.

You tell us: Do you have any go-to snacks for when you do 5Ks or long-distance running?
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2. Perfect Your Form

Very few people run with ideal body mechanics, or placement of the arms, legs, and joints during exercise. You can test your running form with a video gait analysis from a sports medicine expert to examine the various angles of your ankles, knees, hips, and back.

Common problems we see in runners with poor form are they:

  • Run either too fast or slow
  • Lean too far forward when running
  • Run with too large of a stride

Many of these problems can increase your risk of knee, ankle, and hip injuries and plantar fasciitis. Learn about common running injuries and how to address them.

3. Practice Outside, Preferably on the Course

Training indoors on a treadmill can provide similar conditioning to outdoor running. However, there are advantages to hitting the road. Running outdoors can help you get used to the wind, rain, and heat you might face on race day, and it can help you learn to develop a comfortable, efficient pace.

Preparing for a 5K often dictates how well you perform. We hope these tips help you successfully complete your 5K injury-free.

Discover how our sports medicine experts can help you train for your
next 5K by visiting one of our Running Injury Clinics.

Learn More


Are you preparing for your first 5K race? Watch our Ready to Race series below to help you get started.

Category: Living Well, Staying Active, Uncategorized     Tags: 5k5k trainingbeginner runningCardioExerciserace trainingrunningWellness