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  • Couch to 5K Plan: How to Prepare for Your First Race

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    Couch to 5K Plan: How to Prepare for Your First Race

    Motivation is key to running. For many athletes, especially beginning or returning runners, a race like a 5K provides a tangible and rewarding end goal. It can be an approachable challenge for getting in shape that also results in a great sense of accomplishment!


    If you’ve never run a 5K before, knowing where to start can be intimidating. That’s why we’ve broken down everything you need to do in the two months before a race below.


    This checklist is also great for cross-country runners getting back into shape for the spring season. Tailor the advice below to fit your current fitness level, and get ready to rock the courses once again!


    Eight Weeks Before 5K Race


    Here are important to-do items eight weeks before you run your race.


    Choose a Race


    This may seem like an obvious task, but you’ll feel more motivated to run if you have a specific deadline. Look for 5K races near you, sign up, and set aside the date in your calendar.


    Decide on a Training Schedule


    Many “Couch to 5K” running plans exist online. Take the time to research a plan that  suits your current level of physical activity and running experience. Most are approximately six weeks long, so choosing one early will give you time to physically and mentally prepare.


    Good running plans should include both cross-training and rest days, so make sure to find a comprehensive training schedule that includes running, other workouts, and breaks. Learn more about cross training options and the importance of rest days in our past blogs..


    Here are a few 5K training plans we recommend:


    Gear Up!


    Getting gear that you love will make you look forward to running. Look good, feel good, right?


    Even more important than gear that matches your style is gear that’s high quality, which will help you stay healthy and prevent injuries. If your shoes aren’t the best pair for your feet and stride, or you have too many miles on your shoes, you’ll be more prone to issues as you run. At Goodmiles Running Company, you can trust you’ll get the cutting edge of technology in all of our shoes, apparel, and accessories, and one of our trained Fit Experts will make sure you get the right fit.


    Check out our recommendations for Saucony, On Running, New Balance, and more, and shop our full collection in store and online. 


    Six Weeks Before 5K Race


    Here’s what you should do in the six weeks leading up to your race.


    Run with Intention


    Go through your chosen training plan and purposefully block off the time you need in your calendar every day until your race. This will ensure that your training fits into your daily schedule and creates extra accountability.


    Consider where you want to run. Find a gym or outdoor running routes that make you want to get out and move! 


    Finding others to run with is also great for accountability.  Enlist a friend or make new friends through local running clubs, such as our very own Goodmiles Run Club! More information about Goodmiles Run Club is available on our news & events page


    Eat a Runner’s Diet 


    A healthy diet is essential when preparing for a race. Here are some foods and vitamins runners should intake daily, per John Hopkins Medicine:


    • Fruits & Vegetables
    • Lean Protein: Fish, poultry, beans, lentils and tofu
    • Health Fats: Olive oil, avocado and nuts
    • Healthy Carbohydrates: Rice, whole grain breads/pastas, and oatmeal


    Read John Hopkins’ full runners’ diet guide here.


    Generally, carbs should make up 60-70% of the calories you consume during the day, with the other foods above comprising the remaining 20-30% of your caloric intake. 


    Remember, everyone’s body is unique! If you have dietary restrictions based on allergies, intolerances, or current eating patterns, consult with a dietician or other medical professional to find which foods will be the best fuel for you.


    Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate


    Hydration isn’t just about drinking a lot of water right before you run (in fact, you probably shouldn’t do that!) Instead, drink water steadily throughout your day so that your body is in a constant state of hydration.


    The average woman should drink 9 cups of water (72 ounces) a day, and the average man should drink 13 cups (104 ounces) a day. However, lifestyle factors play a significant role in each individual’s recommended amount, as does the level of exercise. 


    If you’re concerned about how much water you should drink, ask your doctor for a personalized recommendation.


    One Week Before 5K Race


    Here’s what you should do in the week before your race:


    Familiarize Yourself with the Route


    You may be nervous before running your race, so knowing the road ahead can be soothing. Take the time to walk or run the course once or twice before the day of the race. Having a feeling of familiarity will be a huge confidence booster as you run!


    If you’re traveling for your race or unable to get to the course, most races will have their courses online for you to check out ahead of time. Some may include water stops, restrooms, and elevation so you know what to expect and when.




    You should be sure to eat plenty of carbs (approximately 85-90% of your intake) in the 2-3 days before your race. Carbohydrates store glycogen in your muscles, which creates a sustainable energy source for your body to draw from as you run. 


    However, try not to eat just three heavy meals, which will make you feel weighed down and full. Eat several smaller, carb-heavy meals throughout the day instead.


    Get Plenty of Consistent Sleep


    Your body needs lots of energy, and it’s best to store up your reserves with 7-8 hours of sleep each night. The more consistent your sleep schedule, the better your body will be able to preserve and release energy, so try to set a bedtime and wake-up time and stick to them.


    The Night Before Your First Race


    In addition to the one-week advice above, here’s what else to do the night before your race:


    Lay Out Your Gear


    You’ll be much less stressed in the morning if you lay out everything you’ll need for your race. When packing your bag, include the following apparel items:


    • Your bib (if you picked up your race packet in advance)
    • Shoes
    • Shorts/Pants
    • Tank tops/Shirts/Sweatshirts
    • Socks, underwear, sports bra, etc
    • Hat/Visor/Sunglasses if it’s going to be a sunny day.
    • Hat/Gloves/Gaiter if it will be a cold day.
    • A dry change of clothes for after the race


    It’s important to never wear anything new on race day in order to avoid chafing and blisters. Stick with the gear you’ve worn in and that you know is comfortable.


    Be sure to also charge and pack your phone, watch, and earbuds, in addition to water and snacks.


    Finally, go through the details of the day. Check the weather and plan your outfit accordingly. Research how long it will take you to drive to the race and, then set your alarms with plenty of time to get ready in the morning! 


    Treat Yourself


    Do something you love to take the nerves off. Listen to music, watch a movie, or meet up with some friends — whatever will help you feel calm and happy before your big morning. You may be tempted to take a hot shower or bath to relax, but hot water can drain your energy—best to save that luxury for after your race.


    Remember to not do anything out of the ordinary with your training. Now is not the time to try a new food or drink, or to change your sleep schedule. Routine is important!


    The Morning Of Your Race


    Here’s what to do the morning of your race:


    Eat a Healthy, Carb-Rich Breakfast and Drink Water


    Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast and morning hydration! Eat a carb-rich snack 1-2 hours before you run, or a full breakfast 3-4 hours before you run.


    Warm Up


    Stretch thoroughly before your race begins in order to avoid injury. If possible, go for a short jog or brisk walk to warm up your running muscles. 


    Get to the Course Early


    Try to get to the course at least an hour in advance so you have plenty of time to sign up, put on your bib, use the restroom, and warm up. 


    You should also check if there are signs with paces notated at the start line. Many races will include these markers so you can start your race alongside others that will be running at a similar pace. This helps you to not start out too fast!


    After the 5K Race


    Here’s what you should do after your race.


    Cool Down and Stretch


    You may want to collapse at the finish line, but it’s much better to keep moving! Cool down with a slow walk and stretches. 


    Later, consider getting a massage or using a foam roller to reduce soreness in your muscles. Your body has been through a lot, so treat it with lots of TLC.


    Refuel and Rehydrate


    After your race, drink plenty of water and electrolytes. Start to replenish your nutrients with fruits and whole grains, and enjoy some protein-rich food later. You may want to treat yourself to a juicy burger as a reward, but it’s best for your body to avoid fatty foods if possible.




    You did it! Finishing a race is a major accomplishment, especially for the first time or after a long break. You should feel proud of yourself and celebrate your accomplishment with yourself and loved ones. If you want, take a picture to commemorate this special day! You’ll be happy to look back on this moment, and it will serve as great encouragement to continue running in the future.


    If you have any questions or need advice when training for a run, the Fit Experts at Goodmiles Running Company are here to help. They’re good for more than just gear recommendations: they’ll connect you with a running community, share tips and tricks, and cheer you on for every mile!


    And when it comes to progressing in your running journey, our local run club coaches, Jennifer, Carey, and Travis, are invaluable resources. Drawing upon their extensive expertise and passion for running, they offer guidance that goes beyond the finish line. As part of the Goodmiles family, Jennifer, Carey and Travis, are dedicated to supporting your running goals, providing personalized advice, and fostering a sense of community.


    For those looking to enhance their training experience, don't forget about our weekly run clubs in Greenfield or Brookfield for energizing group runs that start at 6PM. 


    Visit us today at our two locations in Greenfield and Brookfield!



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