A 5K might just be the most fun and rewarding kind of race — if you do it right. It’s not a marathon or triathlon, and it doesn’t require a huge training commitment. But going from the couch to running a 5K can still challenge your fitness, and help sculpt your body.
It’s also the perfect event to sign up with friends. Many 5Ks are really just parties in disguise, with post-race concerts and beer, or even fun shenanigans — like food challenges and costume contests during the race.
But to get the most fun out of a 5K, it still takes some motivation, some training and discipline.
Here’s how to go from the couch to running a 5K:
Pick your best race
Going from the couch to running a 5K can be a daunting task so start on the right foot and pick a race that will motivate you to do your best. Try picking a cause that has annual events like the Arthritis Foundation or one that is near and dear to your heart. Or, do you love dressing up? Pick a race with a costume contest. Or if you’ve got the budget, register for a destination race someplace you’ve always wanted to visit. The excitement of a vacation will add to your motivation and get you out and training.
Set a personal goal and schedule
One of the best things about a race is that it sets a goal to look forward to, and it’s exciting to click “submit” on your registration. Between the day you sign up and the day of the race, you’ll need to make a plan. Going from the couch to running a 5K wont be easy at first so you will want to select a training schedule that fits your ability, and stick to it as much as you can. The Mayo Clinic has a great schedule for beginners, and Cool Running and Runner’s World both have training calendars for runners of all levels.
Make accountability fun
Make a running date with a friend once a week to keep your motivation high. Or, if you have a friend who runs at a different pace, meet at the gym where you can run on treadmills at your own pace. There are plenty of local running clubs too! Just ask your local running shop about group runs.
Set yourself up for success
Sometimes it’s the little things that can completely sap motivation. Blisters, chafing or ill-fitting clothing can take the fun out of running, but this can easily be remedied. Make sure your shoes fit properly and work well with your running style. You never know when some mild rubbing will go from a minor irritation to chafing, blisters or even raw skin. Use Skin Glide Balm on toes and feet, or try Body Glide For Her anywhere rubbing may develop between skin and running wear, a sports bra, and where skin rubs skin. This will keep chafing and blisters from ruining your runs, or putting you off your training schedule.
Make sure you’re excited about your running duds. It sounds silly, but if your clothes make you feel good, stylish and fast, you’ll enjoy your runs—and stay more motivated.
Small rewards go a long way in keeping morale high throughout the training schedule. Allow yourself to splurge on something special each week to help you stick to your training goals. Whether it’s a glass of wine with a running buddy, a new sports bra or a new album of motivational music, little rewards will help keep you stoked when the going gets tough.
Make a good playlist
Motivational tunes will pump you up! Studies show music and mood go hand in hand. Stay psyched! Make a playlist of songs that make you feel happy and energetic, and then hit shuffle, because research shows that a random playlist increases dopamine when songs you like come on. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Beyonce, Metallica or Miles Davis—only that you like it.
Whether it’s your first 5K or your 50th, going from the couch to running a 5K is an awesome accomplishment for any person, any age. So even if your race day doesn’t turn out the way you expected, remember all the calories you burned and the endorphins you’ve produced along the way. Don’t forget it’s OK to walk— as the real fun is in getting outside and moving. No matter how long it takes or the place you come in, make sure to enjoy the moment. You won’t regret it.