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5K for Beginners

a group of male and female runners celebrate after completing a race

If your workout is getting stale, renew your motivation by setting a goal. For example, think about signing up for a 5K race in your area. Even if you’re not currently active, 5K (about 3.1 miles) is a goal most people can achieve. Training for an event gives each workout added purpose and can help you stay on track.

For those who are new to race training, Kerem Shuval, PhD, director, Physical Activity & Nutrition Research at the American Cancer Society, shares his tips:

  • Register for an event at least 3 months in advance. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to build up your endurance slowly and safely.
  • Check with a doctor before beginning training.
  • Get the right equipment – comfortable clothes and well-fitting running shoes (be sure to break them in slowly). And don’t forget sun protection!
  • Stretch gently before and after your run to reduce risk of injury. Use the first few minutes to warm up slowly to prepare your body for aerobic activity, and cool down gradually at the end.
  • Start slowly. If you’re not currently exercising, be careful not to overdo things in the beginning. Try mixing walking and jogging every other day or about 2-3 times a week for the first couple of weeks, gradually increasing to 4-5 times a week.
  • Focus on distance more than time. Even though it’s called a race, finishing is what counts. If you can slowly build up your endurance to running about 7K in your practices, you’ll be more able to relax and focus on enjoying yourself for your very first 5K race.
  • For most people, exercising regularly will make you start to feel better and healthier in as little as 2 weeks. But if you feel any pain along the way, don’t try to tough it out. Stop and check with your doctor.
  • Involve your family or a buddy in this challenge; it will be more fun and help you stick with it.
  • Support your workout with a healthy diet by following the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.