How to Prepare for a 5k in 13 Weeks – Free Full Guide

When training for a 5k race or a marathon, you always think you have all the time in the world. Having 13 weeks to train seems pretty sufficient, but now is the time to start.

The more time you have, the better you can deal with any surprising injuries. Besides, you’ll want to have an extra week in your plan or so to deal with any setbacks. Of course, committing to a training plan is always easier said than done.

Having done so before, I know how to prepare for a 5k in 13 weeks, and you’re about to know too. Let’s jump right into it!

How to Prepare for a 5k in 13 Weeks

1. Train Both Outside and on Your Treadmill

If you have a treadmill, you may be tempted to stay inside for the whole training period. However, I recommend going outside every once in a while. Here’s a rundown of the benefits of both running outdoors and on a treadmill.

On a Treadmill

How to Prepare for a 5k in 13 Weeks: legs of a girl who is warming up on a treadmill. Selective focus

Running on a treadmill seems like the perfect idea in the winter; I’ll give you that. Instead of going out in the cold and getting frostbite, you stay indoors and still maintain your fitness level.

Besides, the treadmill’s cushioned deck won’t hurt your joints as rough terrains might do.

Treadmill running also improves your cardiovascular health. And if yours has incline and decline settings, you can imitate uphill running between the comfort of your four walls.

Not to mention, your treadmill will track your heart rate, pace, distance, so you won’t have to calculate anything.

All that said, you won’t be having your 5k run on a treadmill. You’ll have to get yourself accustomed to running out in the open because that’s how you’ll run your race.

Outdoors

Running outdoors trains you to stabilize your body and keep it balanced on various terrains. No matter where you have your 5k run, you’ll do okay if you’ve had enough time training outdoors. On top of that, you’ll improve your lateral agility, which is your ability to change direction without falling out of balance.

Running out in nature is better for your overall health. I know it sounds just a bit cliche, but it’s true. Many experts agree that running outdoors sharpens your focus, increases your resilience, and keeps you feeling positive.

Talking technically, running outdoors is, in fact, better for your muscles. With the road bumps and uneven ground, you engage more muscle groups and burn more calories.

The only major downside to training outside is the higher risk of injuries.

2. Make Sure You Can Walk Before Running

Before attempting to have a fully-fledged running training plan, make sure you can walk at least 30 minutes first. The famous Olympian Jeff Galloway advises all runners to, in his words, walk, don’t run.

Even when you get the hang of walking, you shouldn’t go all out on running. First, alternate between running and walking in your daily workout, and you’ll eventually be able to run without incorporating any walking.

3. Invest in Proper Running Gear

Running Gear

I know you probably already heard this plenty of times.

Buy a pair of good shoes. Invest in running gear. Don’t go cheap.

You’ve probably heard it all, but because it can’t be said enough, I’ll stress on it again.

I like to believe that heroes have capes and runners have shoes. If your shoe is making you uncomfortable, then what’s the point? Chances are, you’ll feel pain halfway through the race and be discouraged to continue.

That’s why choosing a pair of shoes carefully is crucial. For one, you should buy your shoes from a running shoe maker. Opt for Adidas, Saucony, Asics, or any other brand that specializes in running.

Additionally, try to go to the stores yourself and try various shoes with different fits. The shoes are the most essential in your gear, so you should invest most of your budget in them. You can then go for affordable moisture-wicking clothes.

4. Follow a Training Plan

Nothing good ever comes from random workouts. One day, you’ll feel like exercising, so you’ll run. The other day, you’ll rest and have a greasy burger for lunch. Then, you’ll have a surge of energy and run for an hour straight, and the cycle gets repeated again.

Going about your 5k race with random workouts is a no-no. You should follow an organized training plan according to the duration you have—in this case, 13 weeks.

Here’s a 13-week training plan for a 5k race. You can adjust or alter some of the days as you want, but make sure to cover the same distance for the best results.

Week 1

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Half-mile easy run + 1-mile cruise interval(x2) + half-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 4-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 5-mile long run

Week 2

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 800m speed workout(x4) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 4-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 6-mile long run

Week 3

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: Half-mile easy run + 1.25-mile tempo interval(x2) + half-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 4-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 5-mile long run

Week 4

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 1000m speed workout(x3) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 4-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: 1-mile easy run + 10×100 strides
  • Sunday: 6-mile long run

Week 5

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: Half-mile easy run + 1.5-mile tempo interval(x2) + half-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 5-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 6-mile long run

Week 6

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 1000m speed workout(x3) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 5-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: 1-mile easy run + 10×100 strides
  • Sunday: 6-mile long run

Week 7

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 1-mile cruise interval(x3) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 6-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 7-mile long run

Week 8

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 600m speed workout(x5) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 5-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: 3-mile easy run
  • Sunday: 5k race

Week 9

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 2-mile tempo run + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 5-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 7-mile long run

Week 10

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 1000m speed workout(x4) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 5-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: 1-mile easy run + 10×100 strides
  • Sunday: 6-mile long run

Week 11

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 1-mile cruise interval(x2) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 4-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 6-mile long run

Week 12

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest/Strength training
  • Wednesday: 1-mile easy run + 1600m speed workout(x2) + 1-mile easy run
  • Thursday: 4-mile easy run
  • Friday: Cross-training
  • Saturday: 1-mile easy run + 10×100 strides
  • Sunday: 5-mile long run

Week 13

  • Monday: 3-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 3-mile run + 200 stride outs(x5)
  • Thursday: 3-mile easy run
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: THE RACE DAY

5. Don’t Forget the Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs

When you’re done training for the day, the last thing you want to do is to stay for some more exercises. You want to rush back home, have a shower, and rest for the day. However, cooling down is vital if you want your body to keep going till the day of the race.

Cooling down doesn’t only return your body back to its normal state, but it also stretches your muscles so that they don’t get sore afterward.

If your daily schedule includes strides or sprinting, you’ll want to include some breathing exercises in the cool-down to get your heart rate back to normal.

As for warm-ups, they aren’t any less important than cool-downs. They raise your body’s temperature, getting it ready for the workout. On top of that, they encourage blood to flow to your muscles, so they’re ready for the effort.

If you don’t know how to warm up, jogging for five or six minutes is enough. After you’re done, do some stretches, preferably targeting the quads, hamstrings, and calves. Then, you’re ready to start training.

6. Rest When You Need

Pushing your body too hard isn’t your key to crossing the finish line. Contrary to common belief, training without resting will only cause you to get overuse injuries. You’ve got to listen to your body and rest when you need to.

When you’re having a dull ache in one of your muscles, feeling weaker than usual, or feeling light-headed while running, it’s your cue to take a step back and rest.

You shouldn’t be feeling pain when training except for the usual muscle burning and the post-exercise soreness. Pain is your body’s way to tell you that it needs rest.

If you need to take one more day to rest amid your training plan, feel free to do it.

7. Start Looking for a 5k Race to Register

You’ll want to start looking for your 5k race 6–12 weeks before it to find a spot. Registering early will also encourage you to keep training because you’ll have a goal to look forward to. Start looking for the available dates, and register for the race that best suits your interests.

Before registering for a 5k race, you need to determine if you want a charity-themed race or a free-spirited one. There are also many available themed races, so you’ll want to explore your options before deciding.

8. Prepare for the Race Properly

If this is your first race, there are some facts you may not be aware of. For example, the race isn’t the right place to fuss about clothes. You should pick the most comfortable attire you have, even if it doesn’t look flattering.

Here are some extra tips for race prepping:

  • On the race day, wear the same shoes you’ve been training in
  • Write your personal info on the race bib before the race
  • Don’t wear new clothes. You never know whether they’ll irritate your skin
  • Arrive early on the race day to get yourself used to the surroundings

9. Ease the Pre-Race Anxiety

Anxious Runner

Anxiety before your race is inevitable. Even if you’ve been training for more than three months, you have a right to feel nervous. The right way to deal with it is to follow these simple tips:

  • Make sure to have enough rest and sleep at least 6–7 hours before the race
  • Visit the racecourse once or twice before the race
  • Arrive at the racecourse on the big day as early as possible
  • Memorize a couple of running mantras before the race to ease your mind

10. Fuel Up on the Race Day

On the day of your race, you should eat a carbohydrate-rich meal to store enough energy for the distance. However, you should stop eating at least half an hour before you start the race.

The options are endless; you can have a banana, oatmeal, or anything you prefer—as long as you make sure the meal is a low-fat one.

Remember to grab a water bottle before the race, so you can rehydrate whenever you need to. Depending on the weather that day, you may need to carry a couple of bottles.

Final Thoughts On How To Prepare For A 5K In 13 Weeks

Now, I think you know how to prepare for a 5k race in 13 weeks. Don’t worry much; 13 weeks is more than enough to have a solid training schedule and some time to spare. Remember that the plan above isn’t meant for beginners. If you’re following it, you should be capable of walking for at least an hour beforehand.

If you need to add one more rest day to the plan, by all means, do it. Good luck tackling that finish line, champ!

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