How to train for a 5K


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site recommends that adults do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity) each week. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week for substantial health benefits.

Training for a 5K is a great way to work these recommendations into your daily life. Running and/or brisk walking is an ideal activity suited for the above recommendations.  For those just starting out, running is a great activity that can be done at any time, in any season, and generally anywhere!  Generally all you need is a decent pair of shoes, a desire to move and the okay from your doctor (we recommend checking with your healthcare provider to ensure that you do not have any health issues that may preclude you from participating in any new exercise program).

Get Started

Once you get the all clear to start your training, there are many resources available to help you along the road to a successful 5K. Couch to 5K is a very popular progressive program, but locally we are lucky to have some excellent resources as well! Local gyms are great resources to incorporate strength training into your training,  and Can’t Stop Running has running groups and programs to help get you started or support you if you would like the accountability of a more structured program.

Trust the Process

One of the most important parts of training? Patience!  Running and/or brisk walking doesn’t always feel good and is at times hard, but being patient and knowing that it is a process can help greatly.  Every person is unique and each person responds to training differently.  Having a coach or a group to help you navigate through some of the challenges can be very helpful.  Both Innergy Fitness and Can’t Stop Running offer individualized coaching in addition to their group programs for a more personalized training experience as well as for additional accountability and motivation.

Set a Goal

Having a goal can make beginning – and continuing – any exercise routine much easier and also provide some accountability. The Mercer Health 5K Challenge series is a great option to help keep you on track and help motivate you for a lifelong habit. This year’s MH5K Challenge will be a virtual 5k challenge for 6 weeks and will end with the Buzzards Glory 5k on August 1.

More information about the virtual 5k challenge, including how to register, is available at

Benefits for All

Everyone can benefit from 5K training, from those just starting out, those who have never even run a step in their life, all the way up to very experienced runners and marathoners. Taking a season to work on speed can help longer distance runners do a sort of “mini reset” in that it freshens their training up from longer more steady state runs to runs of more variety (shorter, faster intervals, etc.). This can have a big pay off when transitioning back to longer training for fall or spring marathons, as it improves their overall speed and durability.

Finding a Balance

While running and brisk walking do fulfill the recommendations of the Surgeon General’s Guidelines, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recommends that adults incorporate muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups 2+ days a week for additional health benefits.

Most 5K programs include some light strength work to ensure sufficient strength and stability to complete the training program without getting injured and to assist in maximizing the results of the training. If your program does not include a strength training aspect, a comprehensive assessment by a physical therapist can help fill that gap. Community Sports and Therapy Center offers a Must Run program and also a Sports MAX program to help runners and overall athletes perform at their best and help to prevent injury that can occur from just staring a training program or from changing up their training.


Information provided by Christy Diller, Physical Therapist, with Community Sports & Therapy Center.