All the Surprises of Running My First 5K Without Training a Mile

When our Fitness editor told me that I’d be running a 5K as a guest of the Tone It Up Retreat in Newport Beach, CA, several thoughts ran through my head after some initial laughter. Is it safe to run my first 5K without any training or preparation? Could I do it? Would I survive?

As someone who can barely walk home without panting, it was hard not to freak out a little. My friends’ and family’s responses went something like, “Oh, I don’t know, man.” The support was unreal.

Aside from a (sometimes) weekly dance class, I generally identify myself as a pretty inactive person. The last time I had competitively run a mile was in 8th grade PE ¡ª the last time I ran three miles? Oh, never. The running shoes I had purchased a month earlier for “motivation” barely left their box just the weekend before, and I could hardly call that a run. But I was so excited about this last-minute trip that I welcomed anything that was asked of me, including this 5K.

Fast-forward to the morning of when my nerves were stretching with me. Here I was, surrounded by 400 Tone It Up women, standing in my running shoes that had yet to be broken in.

Then, the shot was fired.

I started off slow, real slow. Ten minutes in, I was almost done with my first lap of four but my shins began to badly burn. Listening to Drake helped me push through to lap two when I thought, “OK, this isn’t bad. I got this.” But soon after, a fear of “Holy sh*t, I may not make it” quickly took over.

I tried to keep focused on the lyrics and my breathing, and it didn’t hurt that this was a Ros¨¦ 5K with some bubbly waiting for us at the finish line. Half an hour in and I was on my final lap. Minus a couple 10-second walk breaks, I had maintained a steady pace the entire time and this, my friends, blew my freaking mind. As I approached the end, I surprisingly felt energized enough to pick up the pace so I decided to go full speed to the finish line. Yes, there were many girls who had finished long before I had, but I ended my very first 5K at 37 minutes, and hey, I felt pretty damn good for pushing through.

My first 5K made me realize that my fitness potential was completely hindered by how I viewed running. Since then, I’ve become more open-minded to fitness in general and less fearful of pushing my body. My new perspective has inspired me to continue to explore my physical limits and to even consider signing up for another 5K or even a 10K! But after some actual preparation next time around, of course.

In the meantime, here’s seven things I learned from my first experience.

    Go at your own pace: As badly as I wanted to keep up with some of the runners, I knew I’d burn out quick if I tried. Instead, I kept slow, light steps throughout.A good playlist is everything: If it weren’t for the help of Drake and Queen Bey, I’m really not sure if I could’ve made it on my own.It’s OK to walk: There were many women who were killing it, but there were plenty of others who walked the race, too. Regardless of what anyone else is doing, just focus on what your body is capable of.Only take sips of water: While the sun was beating down hard on us, I had to resist the urge to gulp down. I took only enough sips to get me through each lap to prevent cramps from slowing me down.Nothing gets a girl running like Ros¨¦: No, seriously, you should’ve seen some of these runners go. Why every race doesn’t end with some is my question.It’s all mental: I had the wrong outlook coming into the race, first of all. I already set myself up for failure based on what I thought I knew about my body. Especially feeling intimidated by the more experienced women around me, it was easy to get dissuaded. But self-encouragement can really make all the difference.You might surprise yourself: I definitely did. I was either going to embarrass or impress myself and thankfully, it was the latter. You really don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.

Image Source: Tone It Up

All the Surprises of Running My First 5K Without Training a Mile

When our Fitness editor told me that I’d be running a 5K as a guest of the Tone It Up Retreat in Newport Beach| CA| several thoughts ran through my head after some initial laughter. Is it safe to run my first 5K without any training or preparation? Could I do it? Would I survive?

As someone who can barely walk home without panting| it was hard not to freak out a little. My friends’ and family’s responses went something like| “Oh| I don’t know| man.” The support was unreal.

Aside from a (sometimes) weekly dance class| I generally identify myself as a pretty inactive person. The last time I had competitively run a mile was in 8th grade PE ¡ª the last time I ran three miles? Oh| never. The running shoes I had purchased a month earlier for “motivation” barely left their box just the weekend before| and I could hardly call that a run. But I was so excited about this last-minute trip that I welcomed anything that was asked of me| including this 5K.

Fast-forward to the morning of when my nerves were stretching with me. Here I was| surrounded by 400 Tone It Up women| standing in my running shoes that had yet to be broken in.

Then| the shot was fired.

I started off slow| real slow. Ten minutes in| I was almost done with my first lap of four but my shins began to badly burn. Listening to Drake helped me push through to lap two when I thought| “OK| this isn’t bad. I got this.” But soon after| a fear of “Holy sh*t| I may not make it” quickly took over.

I tried to keep focused on the lyrics and my breathing| and it didn’t hurt that this was a Rosé 5K with some bubbly waiting for us at the finish line. Half an hour in and I was on my final lap. Minus a couple 10-second walk breaks| I had maintained a steady pace the entire time and this| my friends| blew my freaking mind. As I approached the end| I surprisingly felt energized enough to pick up the pace so I decided to go full speed to the finish line. Yes| there were many girls who had finished long before I had| but I ended my very first 5K at 37 minutes| and hey| I felt pretty damn good for pushing through.

My first 5K made me realize that my fitness potential was completely hindered by how I viewed running. Since then| I’ve become more open-minded to fitness in general and less fearful of pushing my body. My new perspective has inspired me to continue to explore my physical limits and to even consider signing up for another 5K or even a 10K! But after some actual preparation next time around| of course.

In the meantime| here’s seven things I learned from my first experience.

    <Go at your own pace: As badly as I wanted to keep up with some of the runners| I knew I’d burn out quick if I tried. Instead| I kept slow| light steps throughout.A good playlist is everything: If it weren’t for the help of Drake and Queen Bey| I’m really not sure if I could’ve made it on my own.It’s OK to walk: There were many women who were killing it| but there were plenty of others who walked the race| too. Regardless of what anyone else is doing| just focus on what your body is capable of.Only take sips of water: While the sun was beating down hard on us| I had to resist the urge to gulp down. I took only enough sips to get me through each lap to prevent cramps from slowing me down.Nothing gets a girl running like Ros¨¦: No| seriously| you should’ve seen some of these runners go. Why every race doesn’t end with some is my question.It’s all mental: I had the wrong outlook coming into the race| first of all. I already set myself up for failure based on what I thought I knew about my body. Especially feeling intimidated by the more experienced women around me| it was easy to get dissuaded. But self-encouragement can really make all the difference.You might surprise yourself: I definitely did. I was either going to embarrass or impress myself and thankfully| it was the latter. You really don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.

Image Source: Tone It Up

How to Run a Faster 5K

You’ve been running regularly for some time and have completed a few 5K fun runs. But now it’s time to step it up and take this distance seriously. Here are some tips to help you beat your personal record when running 3.1 miles.

During TrainingAdd speedwork: If you want to run a faster 5K, then you have to practice running faster. Coach Andrew Kastor recommends adding 80-meter sprints into your training schedule, and here’s his plan for running a faster 5K in four weeks. Remember: sprinting can be hard on the body, so make sure to start off with shorter sprints and build up to the full 80 meters, especially if you’re new to speedwork.Add short uphills: Hills require strength and endurance, so if you practice them during your training, then you’ll develop speed and muscle power, and just as with plyometrics (jump exercises), hill sprints will increase flexibility in your muscles and tendons, which reduces your risk of injury. In your training, tackle shorter steep hills (about 6 to 10 percent incline). Sprint up for 10 seconds, and then walk downhill backward to avoid pressure on the knees. Repeat, eventually building up to eight 10-second sprints. It’s a surefire way to stronger, faster legs.Incorporate strength-training moves that target your shins, calves, quads, glutes, and core: Running alone won’t increase your speed. You need to strengthen the muscles that make you move so your actions will be more powerful and more efficient. Incorporate variations of squats, lunges, step-ups, calf raises, bent over rows, and these three booty moves from celebrity trainer David Kirsch.Become familiar with the route: Obtain a map of the 5K course, and if the route is open (like in a neighborhood or wooded trail), then practice running it to familiarize yourself with the hills, curves, and mile markers. Knowing the course in advance will give you confidence and an added advantage over runners who are tackling it for the first time.

On Race DayNourish and hydrate: Eat a low-fiber meal that contains protein and easily digestible carbs. Make sure it’s under 200 calories and eaten one to two hours before you run. My favorite is peanut butter on a banana, but find what works for you. Drink 14 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before you run.Warm up: It may only be 3.1 miles, but if you warm up with some brisk walking or light jogging 25 minutes before the race, then not only will you prevent injury, but also, your muscles will be ready to go once the race begins.For uphills: Proper form is key. Keep your head and chest upright and your shoulders and hands relaxed (no clenched fists). Take shorter strides and push off and up, not into the hill, to add spring to your movements, while keeping your feet close to the ground. Don’t make your legs do all the work ¡ª pump your arms to add power to each step. Gaze up the hill to where you’re going rather than at the ground. It helps you see the progress you’re making, which motivates you to keep going. Tackle the first two-thirds of the hill at a slower, relaxed pace, and then accelerate toward the end. For downhills: Use gravity here, and allow your body to take a longer stride with each step. Relax your leg muscles and focus on leaning forward into the hill and landing softly to avoid jarring your knees and other joints. For flats: Focus on moving efficiently and with minimal effort. You can achieve this by shifting your shoulders slightly in front of your hips, allowing gravity to naturally pull you forward. Capitalize on this forward momentum to conserve energy while increasing your pace on flat sections of the race without much muscular effort. For curves: Pay attention to turns in the course, and move over as soon as possible to hug the curves, shortening the distance.Finish strong: Knowing the course is extremely helpful, as miles aren’t always marked on 5Ks. Take a negative-split approach to the race; once you hit the halfway mark, begin to pick up the pace (passing runners will give you an added boost of confidence). For the last quarter mile, go for the gold and sprint to the finish line.Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kat Borchat

How to Run a Faster 5K

You’ve been running regularly for some time and have completed a few 5K fun runs. But now it’s time to step it up and take this distance seriously. Here are some tips to help you beat your personal record when running 3.1 miles.

During TrainingAdd speedwork: If you want to run a faster 5K| then you have to practice running faster. Coach Andrew Kastor recommends adding 80-meter sprints into your training schedule| and here’s his plan for running a faster 5K in four weeks. Remember: sprinting can be hard on the body| so make sure to start off with shorter sprints and build up to the full 80 meters| especially if you’re new to speedwork.Add short uphills: Hills require strength and endurance| so if you practice them during your training| then you’ll develop speed and muscle power| and just as with plyometrics (jump exercises)| hill sprints will increase flexibility in your muscles and tendons| which reduces your risk of injury. In your training| tackle shorter steep hills (about 6 to 10 percent incline). Sprint up for 10 seconds| and then walk downhill backward to avoid pressure on the knees. Repeat| eventually building up to eight 10-second sprints. It’s a surefire way to stronger| faster legs.Incorporate strength-training moves that target your shins| calves| quads| glutes| and core: Running alone won’t increase your speed. You need to strengthen the muscles that make you move so your actions will be more powerful and more efficient. Incorporate variations of squats| lunges| step-ups| calf raises| bent over rows| and these three booty moves from celebrity trainer David Kirsch.Become familiar with the route: Obtain a map of the 5K course| and if the route is open (like in a neighborhood or wooded trail)| then practice running it to familiarize yourself with the hills| curves| and mile markers. Knowing the course in advance will give you confidence and an added advantage over runners who are tackling it for the first time.

On Race DayNourish and hydrate: Eat a low-fiber meal that contains protein and easily digestible carbs. Make sure it’s under 200 calories and eaten one to two hours before you run. My favorite is peanut butter on a banana| but find what works for you. Drink 14 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before you run.Warm up: It may only be 3.1 miles| but if you warm up with some brisk walking or light jogging 25 minutes before the race| then not only will you prevent injury| but also| your muscles will be ready to go once the race begins.For uphills: Proper form is key. Keep your head and chest upright and your shoulders and hands relaxed (no clenched fists). Take shorter strides and push off and up| not into the hill| to add spring to your movements| while keeping your feet close to the ground. Don’t make your legs do all the work pump your arms to add power to each step. Gaze up the hill to where you’re going rather than at the ground. It helps you see the progress you’re making| which motivates you to keep going. Tackle the first two-thirds of the hill at a slower| relaxed pace| and then accelerate toward the end. For downhills: Use gravity here| and allow your body to take a longer stride with each step. Relax your leg muscles and focus on leaning forward into the hill and landing softly to avoid jarring your knees and other joints. For flats: Focus on moving efficiently and with minimal effort. You can achieve this by shifting your shoulders slightly in front of your hips| allowing gravity to naturally pull you forward. Capitalize on this forward momentum to conserve energy while increasing your pace on flat sections of the race without much muscular effort. For curves: Pay attention to turns in the course| and move over as soon as possible to hug the curves| shortening the distance.Finish strong: Knowing the course is extremely helpful| as miles aren’t always marked on 5Ks. Take a negative-split approach to the race; once you hit the halfway mark| begin to pick up the pace (passing runners will give you an added boost of confidence). For the last quarter mile| go for the gold and sprint to the finish line.Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kat Borchat

The Secrets to a Successful 5K

If you’ve recently signed up for a 5K, congratulations ¡ª?committing to a run is often the hardest part. But even with entry secured, you might be unsure of how to prep properly before the big day. Here are a few easy steps to help get you to the starting line with a stride in your step.

Pick a purpose: Decide what your goal is and keep that in mind during training (and the race itself). If it’s to jump-start a fitness routine or lose weight, you may not be as concerned with your finish time. But if you want to beat a personal best or qualify for another race after your 5K, make sure your training allows for this.

Create a training schedule: Sticking with a schedule like this six-week running guide will help you stay on track without overwhelming you physically. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to train so you can increase both mileage and time while still allowing the body time to rest.

Keep motivated: Whether you decide to run a 5K with a group or find a running buddy to train with, a friend can help keep you accountable. Sharing your goals and scheduling running workouts together will help keep momentum up and ensure that you stay consistent ¡ª?especially during those times when you feel low.

Don’t do too much too fast: Keep the old saying “slow and steady wins the race” in mind while training. It’s important to not push yourself too hard, too fast ¡ª?you want to avoid injury so that you can actually get to the race. A good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent each week. Jot down your plan and increase gradually. Motivation is key, but be careful it doesn’t drive you to bite off more than you can chew.

Train in the right gear: Feeling comfortable during the race, and in training, is crucial to your success. Never race in gear ¡ª especially shoes ¡ª that you haven’t tested before. Run in clothing that is broken in that you know won’t ride up or cause blisters. If you need a new pair of shoes and have time to break them in before race day, go to a running specialty store to get a gait analysis and test the shoes out on a real track. Remember the saying “cotton is rotten” when dressing to train. It makes clothes heavy, sweaty, and wet.

Start strong, finish strong: Positive visualization will help you before the race and during. While you train, picture yourself on the track and tune out any environmental factors. The race will be full of people running right alongside you, so the more you practice this technique, the better your performance will be on the big day. Keep your eyes on the prize as you complete your 5K and keep all of the reasons you decided to do it circling in your head. This will help you feel even more accomplished as you cross the finish line.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

The Secrets to a Successful 5K

If you’ve recently signed up for a 5K| congratulations ¡ª?committing to a run is often the hardest part. But even with entry secured| you might be unsure of how to prep properly before the big day. Here are a few easy steps to help get you to the starting line with a stride in your step.

Pick a purpose: Decide what your goal is and keep that in mind during training (and the race itself). If it’s to jump-start a fitness routine or lose weight| you may not be as concerned with your finish time. But if you want to beat a personal best or qualify for another race after your 5K| make sure your training allows for this.

Create a training schedule: Sticking with a schedule like this six-week running guide will help you stay on track without overwhelming you physically. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to train so you can increase both mileage and time while still allowing the body time to rest.

Keep motivated: Whether you decide to run a 5K with a group or find a running buddy to train with| a friend can help keep you accountable. Sharing your goals and scheduling running workouts together will help keep momentum up and ensure that you stay consistent ¡ª?especially during those times when you feel low.

Don’t do too much too fast: Keep the old saying “slow and steady wins the race” in mind while training. It’s important to not push yourself too hard| too fast ¡ª?you want to avoid injury so that you can actually get to the race. A good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent each week. Jot down your plan and increase gradually. Motivation is key| but be careful it doesn’t drive you to bite off more than you can chew.

Train in the right gear: Feeling comfortable during the race| and in training| is crucial to your success. Never race in gear ¡ª especially shoes ¡ª that you haven’t tested before. Run in clothing that is broken in that you know won’t ride up or cause blisters. If you need a new pair of shoes and have time to break them in before race day| go to a running specialty store to get a gait analysis and test the shoes out on a real track. Remember the saying “cotton is rotten” when dressing to train. It makes clothes heavy| sweaty| and wet.

Start strong| finish strong: Positive visualization will help you before the race and during. While you train| picture yourself on the track and tune out any environmental factors. The race will be full of people running right alongside you| so the more you practice this technique| the better your performance will be on the big day. Keep your eyes on the prize as you complete your 5K and keep all of the reasons you decided to do it circling in your head. This will help you feel even more accomplished as you cross the finish line.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

The 5K Playlist All New Runners Need

If you’ve kicked off a couch-to-5K program, you might be concerned with the speed of your first race. No need to overthink it! For a little motivating music to help you keep time, try out this 12.5-minute-mile playlist that will help you finish the race in just about 40 minutes. Subscribe to the Spotify playlist, then keep reading for the full list of tracks.

    “La La Love You” ¡ª Pixies”Cry When You Get Older” ¡ª Robyn”Wet Hot American Summer” ¡ª Cobra Starship”Kiss You Off” ¡ª Scissor Sisters”Do Your Thing” ¡ª Basement Jaxx”Pharaohs & Pyramids” ¡ª Cut Copy”Hand Me Down Your Love” ¡ª?Hot Chip”The Seed (2.0)” ¡ª The Roots”Great DJ” ¡ª The Ting Tings”And We Danced” ¡ª Macklemore

If this mix doesn’t suit your musical tastes, check out all our workout playlists here.

Remember, you will need to download the free Spotify software or app to listen to our playlists.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

The 5K Playlist All New Runners Need

If you’ve kicked off a couch-to-5K program| you might be concerned with the speed of your first race. No need to overthink it! For a little motivating music to help you keep time| try out this 12.5-minute-mile playlist that will help you finish the race in just about 40 minutes. Subscribe to the Spotify playlist| then keep reading for the full list of tracks.

    “La La Love You” ¡ª Pixies”Cry When You Get Older” ¡ª Robyn”Wet Hot American Summer” ¡ª Cobra Starship”Kiss You Off” ¡ª Scissor Sisters”Do Your Thing” ¡ª Basement Jaxx”Pharaohs & Pyramids” ¡ª Cut Copy”Hand Me Down Your Love” ¡ª?Hot Chip”The Seed (2.0)” ¡ª The Roots”Great DJ” ¡ª The Ting Tings”And We Danced” ¡ª Macklemore

If this mix doesn’t suit your musical tastes| check out all our workout playlists here.

Remember| you will need to download the free Spotify software or app to listen to our playlists.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

Run a Faster 5K With Our 6-Week Plan

It’s time to dust off your fitness goals for Spring and join our Running Challenge. If you’re feeling the need for speed, we have a 5K training plan for you. Designed for experienced runners, the plan is full of speedwork to help you push your training pace and get that new PR (personal record) on race day. Along with tempo runs and intervals, we’ve added a dynamic strength-training workout to keep your legs, glutes, and joints strong to help you run even faster.

And we are here to support your speedy endeavors with running tips to improve your form, playlists to keep you motivated and on pace, and advice on nutrition and recipes to support your goals.

Check out the training plan below, print it, and get at it!

Extra Credit

Here are guides to help with your nonrunning training.

5-Minute Core WorkoutFoam Rolling Routine For Rest Days Plyo and Strength Workout to Build SpeedYour Postrun Must-Do Stretches

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell

Run a Faster 5K With Our 6-Week Plan

It’s time to dust off your fitness goals for Spring and join our Running Challenge. If you’re feeling the need for speed| we have a 5K training plan for you. Designed for experienced runners| the plan is full of speedwork to help you push your training pace and get that new PR (personal record) on race day. Along with tempo runs and intervals| we’ve added a dynamic strength-training workout to keep your legs| glutes| and joints strong to help you run even faster.

And we are here to support your speedy endeavors with running tips to improve your form| playlists to keep you motivated and on pace| and advice on nutrition and recipes to support your goals.

Check out the training plan below| print it| and get at it!

Extra Credit

Here are guides to help with your nonrunning training.

5-Minute Core WorkoutFoam Rolling Routine For Rest Days Plyo and Strength Workout to Build SpeedYour Postrun Must-Do Stretches

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell