How to Prepare for a 5K

by Julia Tehovnik


It’s 3.1 miles?? There’s no way I can finish that!
— Self Doubt


The average walking pace ranges from 3 to 5 miles per hour, which means it can take about 15-25 minutes to walk a brisk mile. That being said, walking a 5K can take around hour to complete. Training to walk a 5K mostly involves duration and frequency - the time you spend walking and how often you get out there to walk. Taking a quick 10-minute walk just a couple times a week is a simple way to get started. Build up your stamina by staying out and walking longer each time you go out. Before you know it, you’ll be walking for an hour easily!

Hal Higdon, a runner, author and renowned writer for Runner’s World, has developed a series of race training programs for various levels of activity. Check out his full training schedule for walking a 5K here!


Whether you’re trying to beat your best race time or trying to go 3.1 miles without walking, there are plenty of ways to train so you can reach your own personal running goals. Just like his walking program, Hal Higdon has 8-week programs for novice runners who are just starting out, intermediate runners who have more training experience, and an advanced training program for serious runners. Don’t have 8 weeks to prepare? Here are a 4-week beginner schedule and a 4-week advanced to get you on track in a crunch.


Before hopping on your bike, it’s always important to check it over and get it serviced if necessary. You may be excited to finally pull your bike out of storage after a long, cold winter (especially in Chicago) but be careful not to rush into your first ride of the year. Check the brakes, gears, chain, and tires thoroughly to keep your bike running smoothly and to keep yourself safe. For a beginning cyclist training program, check out, or take a look at British Cycling for a more intensive 12-week schedule.


Individuals of all ability levels are encouraged to participate wherever and however they can! If you’re rolling your way to 5K, be sure to check your wheelchair and make sure it’s ready and equipped to handle the activity. NCHPAD has an effective walk-or-roll cardio training program to help you prepare for your 5K.


Swimming one mile in an Olympic-sized swimming pool is the same as swimming 1609m, or 32.18 laps. Although Sun Yang currently holds the record for the 1500m freestyle with a time of 14:31:02, it would take a beginner swimming about 30 minutes to swim a mile. If just the thought of swimming that long makes you feel your fingers pruning, we understand - take breaks to rest and refuel if you need to! The event last over a 72-hour period, so you can spread out your swims to reach the full 3.1 miles (or 4987.9m, but who’s counting?).

You can swim inside, outside, in a pool, in a lake, along the coast, or down a river. Be sure to have a reasonable amount of experience and skill for the swim activity of your choice, and utilize a lifeguard whenever possible. If you’re new to swimming, enlisting the help of an instructor or friend may be beneficial to learn proper form and breathing techniques. If you’d like a training schedule to get you started, you can try these 18 swim workouts to build from a 100m swim to a 500m swim.


Reach for new heights on your 5K! The vertical component of hiking utilizes different muscle groups than walking or running, therefore it requires a different style of training. Building endurance through cardio and weight training is a good place to start, but stretching to enhance muscle flexibility is also important. Hiking and backpacking may also be dangerous depending on the height and terrain, so make sure you have proper equipment for a safe and fun hike! Tips for training, gear, safety, and more can be found at

Mix it up!

You don’t have to stick to just one activity! Bike for a while, walk a little bit, then run to the end! Start with a hike on Friday, take a bike ride on Saturday, and finish with a casual walk on Sunday! Turn this 5K into YOUR 5K and get active in the race to end mental health stigmas!


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