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Let me introduce you to Sheila Olson, the founder of As a personal trainer for over 5 years, Sheila Olson spends a majority of her time helping her clients reach their personal fitness goals. Thinking of running your first 5K? Here’s some of her advice.

Finally deciding to run a 5K is a big deal, but the hard part is just beginning. Not only have you committed to an experience that will change you emotionally, but physically as well—for the better. The training you put in to run your first 5K is physically and mentally challenging, and soon you’ll look back and think, “I did it!”

Here are a few tips for training that will put you miles ahead of the competition.

Volunteer First

Before you ever sign up for your first 5K, volunteer to help. Volunteering to help during a 5K gives you access to all kinds of pertinent information that will help you run your own race. Talk with runners to get some insight and survey the route so you know what you’re in for.

Don’t Skimp on Your Shoes

Running shoes are a must-have for a successful race. They are designed specifically for running. Enforced with proper padding where the foot takes the most pounding, they keep your feet and legs from incurring injury. You feel less pain with proper running shoes as well. Just make sure you aren’t wearing them for the first time on race day—break them in gradually for best results.

Try a Fitness Tracker

A new runner’s secret weapon is the fitness tracker.  These little miracles can do everything from monitor your heart rate to count calories. They are also wonderful motivators and help you stay accountable.

You can buy them as stand-alone devices, but there are many different fitness apps and enabled watches available for both Apple and Android. The recently launched Apple Watch Series 5 offers several safety features, like an electrocardiogram (ECG), fall detection, and emergency SOS. If you prefer something less expensive, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active automatically detects exercises as you do them and counts miles as you run.

Pick a Race That’s Right for You

People in all ranges of physical ability can participate in a 5K. The key is finding one to suit your abilities. Nonprofits, charities, and organizations offer modified courses with adaptations to suit specific disabilities. Check local recreational centers and community buildings for information.

Run Three Times Per Week

In the beginning stages of your training, you should aim for a run three days a week. Use a mixture of running and walking to get you as far as you feel comfortable going. Set goals to go farther and faster in the following weeks. Eventually, you will be running every day.

Run in Mixed Environments

It’s great to run on a treadmill. It’s especially helpful on rainy days or if you have one at home. Running outside gives you a different workout, however. You have inclines and declines. You’re running on pavement, dirt, and tar. Changing up your environment gives you a wider base of experience to draw from on race day.

Strength Training

When you aren’t running, Runner’s World recommends doing some strength training. This type of training includes exercises such as planks, crunches, and leg lifts. Your goal should be 20 full minutes of strength training at least two days a week.

Rest Is Vital

One thing many excited new runners forget is the importance of rest. It is vitally important to take two days per week of complete rest. During this time, your body can recuperate from the rigors you put it through.


Eating well while you are training is important. You must fuel your body to sustain all the work you’re doing. New runners often overlook how important your race day diet is, however. Eat a 200-to-300-calorie meal about two hours before the race. Low-fat, low-fiber foods are ideal.

Running your first 5K is an exhilarating experience. You learn a lot about yourself, and with proper preparation, you’ll be healthier both physically and mentally. Choose gear wisely, plan your event thoughtfully, train carefully, and you’ll achieve your goals.

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