HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO TRAIN to be able to run your first 5-K race? Some individuals who possess a reasonably good level of fitness (because they bicycle or swim or participate in other sports) could probably go out and run 3 miles on very little training. They might be sore the week after the race, but they still could finish.
But if you've made the decision to run a 5-K race, you might as well do it right. Above is an eight-week training schedule to help get you to the finish line. It assumes that you have no major health problems, are in reasonably good shape, and have done at least some jogging or walking.
The terms used in the training schedule are somewhat obvious, but let me explain what I mean anyway.
Rest: The most important day in any beginning or intermediate running program is rest. Rest days are as vital as training days. They give your muscles time to recover so you can run again. Actually, your muscles will build in strength as you rest. Without recovery days, you will not improve.
Run: Put one foot in front of the other and run. It sounds pretty simple, and it is. Don't worry about how fast you run; just cover the distance--or approximately the distance suggested. Ideally, you should be able to run at a pace that allows you to converse comfortably while you do so. This isn't always easy for beginners, so don't push too hard or too fast.
Walk/Run: This is a combination of running and walking, suggested for those in-between days when you want to do some running, but only some. There's nothing in the rules that suggests you have to run continuously, either in training or in the 5-K race itself. Use your own judgment. Run until you begin to feel fatigued, then walk until recovered. Run. Walk. Run. Walk. Another option for in-between days is to do some cross-training: biking, swimming or just plain walking. You get a little exercise, but not so much that you are fatigued for the next day's running workout.
Walk: Walking is an excellent exercise that a lot of runners overlook in their training. In the training schedule above, we suggest that you go for an hour-long walk on the day after your longest run. Don't worry about how fast you walk, or how much distance you cover. Take time to stop and sniff the flowers or enjoy a scenic view. Not all training should be difficult. If a 60-minute walk seems too much at first, begin with about 30 minutes and add 5 minutes a week until you reach 60 minutes.
The above schedule is only a guide. The progression above suggests adding a quarter-mile to most runs each week. That's one lap on most outdoor tracks. If you train on the roads, or on trails, it's more difficult to measure precisely how far you run. So don't worry about it. Approximate the distance. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your work and family schedule.