The weather is getting warmer, days are getting longer and 5K’s are springing up all over Loudoun County. If you’re not currently active, signing up for your first 5K can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Just like anything else new, training for a 5K can be exciting and easy. Follow our steps below to get ready for your first 5K.

Step 1: Choose a race! When choosing your first 5K, making that initial commitment is often the hardest part. That’s why choosing the right race is important. We suggest choosing a charity race with an organization or benefactor that means a lot to you. You’ll want to be thinking about your WHY to running every time you train, and as you complete your race on race day. Finding a race that also has minimal hills on the course, and one that’s held in early Spring or Fall, as opposed to the middle of summer is a bonus.

Step 2: Schedule your training. You wouldn’t go see your Doctor without scheduling it, so why not schedule your training? When starting a new routine, it takes 21 days to form a habit. Until running or walking becomes that habit for you, schedule it. Mark it on your calendar like an appointment and keep it. We suggest scheduling it the same time each day. And, just like you wouldn’t skip a Doctor’s appointment, don’t skip your training.  Every time you complete a training you’re one step closer to your goal. Show up for yourself daily, or at least 4 times/week.

Step 3: Start slow. Your first big 5K can be exciting. You may want to race right out and start running 3.1 miles on your first training day. Running before your body is ready can cause strained ligaments and pulled muscles, not to mention may cause you frustration. Start slow and give yourself grace. Make it a point to walk first. Start with walking short distances, maybe for even 10 minutes at a time. Once you can comfortably walk 3.1 miles (5K), slowly start to incorporate a slow jog into your schedule.

Step 4: Make a plan. You are now comfortably walking the distance, let’s get you running. Just as you did with gradually walking longer distances over a period of time, work your way up to running 3.1 miles. Start by jogging for a minute at a time, and then walking for 4. Continue this alternating 1:4 walk/run until you start feeling like you can run longer distances. At that point, start to run for 2 minutes and walk for 3. Don’t increase the speed of your jog until you are comfortably jogging the entire 3.1 miles. Once you feel ready (and your lungs and legs will let you know), increase your running speed for a minute, and jog slower for 4 (following the same alternation you did with the walk/jog) until you are running the entire 3.1 miles.

Step 5: Find a partner! Everything is more fun with a friend! Find an accountability partner that will check in with you on your training progress. A friend that will sign up for the same 5K and will train with you is ever better. There will be days that your body won’t want to leave the couch, and you’ll need your partner to motivate you.

Enjoy! Congratulations! Time to schedule your next race.