How to Run 5K like an Athlete {Guest Post}

I don’t know if this is so much of a secret on here or not, but I absolutely LOVE the 5K distance. I also think that it gets sort of a bad rap sometimes. Because it’s a shorter race I’ve heard people snub it as “easier” and while it is a great place to start for people who want to tackle their first race, I can tell you from experience that there have only been two race distances where I have overexerted myself to near-vomit level…the marathon and the 5K. Both so challenging, but in completely different ways. 

Today’s guest post has some helpful tips for runners of all levels who want to prepare for their first 5K or shoot for a new PR!

Training for a 5K run requires motivation, dedication and a lot of hard work. Whether you are a seasoned runner with several races already under your belt or a complete novice, the journey to 5K fitness can be every bit as rewarding as the race itself. If you approach the big race with the attitude of a professional athlete, you’re likely to perform like one on the day.

Preparing for a 5K run involves far more than jogging three times a week; it should be a complete programme of health, fitness, nutrition and lifestyle changes. Athletes have to sacrifice many of their favourite foods and social activities in order to perform on race day, and you will need to do the same if you’re going to put in an athlete’s performance when the big day arrives.

Adopt the following four strategies in order to fine-tune your body for the challenge that lies ahead.

Adopt a 5K training plan that works for you

Too many people dive straight into a rigorous 5K training plan that was originally designed for seasoned athletes. At best, this course of action could lead to a lot of pain and disappointment; at worst, it could lead to serious injury.

Recognise from the outset what your strengths and weakness are, and give yourself enough time to gradually work on them. A Kiqplan coaching app, for instance, can help you in this regard, as it takes your personal information and activity data and designs a workout and nutrition programme tailored to your needs.

During long periods of exercise, you might experience pain or discomfort in very specific areas of your body, including in your hamstrings, calves and hip flexors. You should therefore develop a series of stretches designed to keep you supple and pain-free in those areas.

Condition your body for the challenge ahead

The average 5K race involves the use of your aerobic system for around 80 percent of a race and your anaerobic system for around 20 percent of the race. Anaerobic activity involves very high intensity activity that leaves you out of breath and experience a build-up of lactic acid in your muscles. You will therefore need a training plan that develops both areas of your respiratory fitness.

Your training regime should include at least two ‘even speed’ runs every week. This is a session in which you should maintain a steady speed and exertion level throughout your run. You should also be performing ‘interval training’ two or three times per week, which involves five minutes of ‘steady speed’ running followed by a minute of intense activity – such as sprinting.

Try to dedicate a day to sprinting every week. Towards the end of your programme, you should be combining high-intensity running with distance. This might include running for a mile at a speed faster than you’re used to, resting for five minutes, and then completing another mile.

Fuel your body fully for training sessions

High-intensity training requires high levels of fat and carbohydrates. However, your body will probably already have sufficient stores of fat, so you should try to fuel your body with good carbohydrates as much as possible. Eating the normal recommended daily allowance of fat – around 20 percent of your daily calorie allowance – should be sufficient.

Good carbohydrates include whole wheat, whole grain and nuts. Brown toast, peanut butter, bananas and granola are all great foods for breakfast, as they provide energy that can be gradually unlocked throughout your morning training sessions. Other foods to load up on include lean meat, fibre-rich vegetables such as spinach, low-fat milk and egg whites.

Remember: this is not the time to diet. If you’re taking on a rigorous training regime, your body will naturally require more fuel.

Source the right equipment

The most important items of equipment you will need to prepare for a 5K run are running shoes. Rather than simply buy the cheapest pair of running shoes at your local sportswear store, visit a specialist running retailer, who will measure and assess your feet. For instance, you may be an over or underpronator, which could mean that a specific type of shoe will enhance your performance and keep your feet in food condition.

Decide on clothes you feel comfortable running in, but dress appropriately for the weather. And if you’re starting to get bored, don’t be afraid to plug yourself into your favourite tunes for some much-needed motivation.

Training for a 5K run should begin at least 12 weeks before the event. And if you want to compete like an athlete, you will need to take every aspect of your health, well-being and fitness very seriously indeed.


How do you feel about the 5K distance? Any tips of your own that you would like to share?

I hope everyone has a fabulous Tuesday!!




15 thoughts on “How to Run 5K like an Athlete {Guest Post}

  1. Running 'N' Reading says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with the 5K distance and anyone who thinks it’s “easier” hasn’t raced one in awhile – ha! I think it’s one of THE TOUGHEST races around and very difficult to manage. These all sound like great tips; I especially like that the author has mentioned that it’s important to view training from a larger perspective, including nutrition and lifestyle changes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Running Boston and Beyond says:

    I have grown to love the 5k in the past few years. Not sure why, but I do. The thing that keeps me going at the near-vomit level is that I know it will soon be over and recovery is short, even with really sore quads! I mean, I can do something for 21 minutes!!!! Anyway, good tips!

  3. klregan says:

    Thanks for the tips! 5K’s are a scary distance and I usually shy away from them because of that. I’ve been wanting to do some shorter distances, though.

  4. Jamie says:

    You’re beyond badass for loving the 5k. Every time I run one (once in a blue moon) I get to the start and just think “oh shit” haha. I have absolutely no strategy with my 5K race, and usually follow the principle “fly and die” which as the name suggests is rather painful. Haha. Thanks for sharing some great tips… Hope you have a fabulous day!

  5. tunderholmes says:

    I haven’t gotten to the “love” part of 5K training… I would like to, but I always feel like I’m training for a longer distance and am not sure how I would fit a 5K training plan into a half marathon training plan. Have you ever done both concurrently?

  6. FitNiceRunner says:

    I love fitting a 5k into my race season and just ran my first road one in almost two years last weekend. Great tool for learning how to manage your pace. And I forgot how much fun they are!

  7. seefleckrun says:

    Great tips! I’m a fan of the 5k distance as well. It’s just enough to be long enough for a workout, but short enough that you can squeeze one in over lunch and not go back to work dripping in sweat! 🙂

  8. Jess@Flying Feet In Faith says:

    I hate the 5k because it is pain. Lol I can run long and slow all day but ask me to run hard and fast then I’ve got a problem. ;-D this is a great post full of wise, solid advise. These could translate for any race distance also. Too many people overlook the nutrition part but that’s crucial!!!

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