Train for a Fall 5k: A Nurse's Guide

The heat is on this summer, but one of the best times to run a 5k race is in the fall. Charity Turkey Trots and Halloween-themed 5ks are among the fun events runners can participate in during fall.  The system in this blog can help you train for any 5k event.

The biggest hurdle to athletic training for most nurses are long shifts and already-existing sleep deprivation.  While some nurses I know are already marathoners (even ultra marathoners, triathletes, ect) this guide is meant to help a beginner.

If you’re not a runner, you can train for and enter a 5k run-walk instead. Most 5k runs, in fact, support walkers and joggers.

 

The first key: alternating high-impact and low-impact training days

 

The key to training for a 5k: alternate, alternate, alternate! Choose a day for a high-impact training session, then devote the following day to a slower, more recovery-focused training session. An example formula to follow: running for twenty minutes on Tuesday and Thursday, and on Wednesday, running and walking for twenty minutes.

Or, if you are working up to being able to run for twenty minutes straight, spend twenty minutes of running/walking in alternation on your high-impact day. The following day, simply go for a twenty-minute walk. 

The other key to a 5k training regimen: a rest day. Or two! Experts suggest training five or six days a week, and leaving one day to rest and rebuild your muscles.

If the alternation system makes sense, but the motivation train has passed you by, these strategies can help:

 

1. Run/walk with a friend of a similar fitness level

 

The buddy system works. Having a friend to count on and having a friend count on you as a supportive source can really make a difference in a training regimen. You don’t have to run together every day, but even just once a week can help.

 

2. Sign up early!

 

Find a fun race, a charity jog, a costumed Halloween race, or a 5k that is dog-friendly and sign up online as soon as you can. Just entering the race and being sent your registration materials can make the goal of running a 5k more ‘real’ and tangible, making it more motivating to train for.

 

3. Don’t be nervous

 

Chances are there are hundreds, if not thousands of other people in your same exact fitness boat. If the going is slow for training, don’t despair. It’s a long game, and you’re not the only one playing.

 

4. Dealing with sleep deprivation and scheduling

 

The best time to run may be in the morning, depending on your city. But, if time allows and you can find a safe neighborhood to run in, don’t give up the idea of running at night. Usually any time from 7 pm to 10 pm is just fine. If 24-hour shifts make alternating impossible, try going for a 20 minute walk/jog on an off day after getting substantial rest.

 

 The fastest athletes in the world can run 5ks in 15 minutes, or even faster than that. For most new 5k runners, 30 minutes and below is a superb goal to shoot for. For those of you doing the math, 30 minutes or less breaks down to about 10 minutes per mile.

Though a ten-minute mile may sound easy, the tough part (for most of us) is running or walking three miles in a row. A 5k time in the 21-minute range breaks down to 7 minute miles, all in a row. That’s pretty fast!

If you train with alternating high-impact and low-impact sessions for 5-7 weeks, you’ll be ready for any 5k race. Good luck, and have fun!