Many people are more diligent runners when they have a goal to focus on. If you’ve been running without a larger goal in mind, you could invigorate yourself and your workouts by registering for a race as the proverbial carrot. The 5K is one of the most common road races across the country, and at just more than three miles it’s a relatively short distance ideal for new or less experienced runners.
Even if you’re working with short notice, your modest running efforts will come in handy in providing you with a much-needed base for your training. And while you might not win the race, it’s entirely possible to train for a 5K in just one month. But you don’t have much time to waste, so read on and acquaint yourself with the training demands before you.
Dividing up your days
One thing you’ll need to keep in mind: A constrained training period doesn’t mean you should double up on running workouts. To avoid injury and give the body time to recover, you still need to limit your running workouts to three or maybe four a week, and never run on back-to-back days.
Two days a week—evenly spaced between training days—should be rest days where you don’t work out at all. On the remaining days of the week you can perform strength training or other cross-training workouts.
Distinguishing among running workout types
Not all running workouts are built the same. There are three basic types of workouts: speed, tempo and distance runs. Speed runs are typically shorter than your racing distance and are designed to be run at or slightly faster than your target race pace. Tempo runs should occur at distances equal to or slightly longer than your racing pace—in this case, somewhere between three and four miles is ideal—and should be performed at a moderate pace that makes it uncomfortable to talk while running.
Distance runs, meanwhile, are designed to expand your running endurance by running lengths well beyond your race pace—in this training scenario, between four and six miles is ideal. The pace of such a run isn’t as important as making sure you run the full distance to stretch your limits.
When training for your 5K, aim for one distance run each week, as well as one speed workout. The remaining one or two runs can be tempo workouts.
Taking care of the little things
Little things can make a big difference when you’re training for a race on such short notice. Make sure you’re eating right, getting enough calories to sustain your workouts and avoiding soft drinks and other empty calories. Always stretch and warm up before and after workouts. And make sure you have a solid pair of running shoes before race day; you’ll want to run in them at least a few times prior to the big event in order to break them in.
As for the 5K itself, focus on finishing the race without walking and fulfilling your personal goals. Don’t compare yourself against other runners, many of whom will have been training for much longer. Get one race under your belt and then, equipped with the results from this race, set your sights on the next challenge.