Your family is looking for something active to do together. Something fun, relatively cheap, and that includes everyone.
One answer for springtime: Train for a 5k run/walk together!
First, let’s dispel a few myths about participating in a 5k:
- Myth #1: You have to be a runner to do a 5k. Truth: Many (in fact, most) 5k races encourage both running and walking.
- Myth #2: 5k races are always expensive. Truth: Races do usually have a registration fee, but most races offer “competitive” and “recreational” entry categories. Choose “competitive” if you want to be eligible for prizes based on your time and age group. Choose “recreational” (often $5 to $10 cheaper) if you just want to participate for fun and fitness. Plus, it’s fairly easy to find a 5k that supports charity with a portion of registration fees. Search your favorite charity website or see the race search engine links below.
- Myth #3: You have to run every day to get ready for a 5k. Truth: Again, you can complete a 5k by walking, if you want! Running some or all of a 5k adds challenge for you to work towards. While it’s better for you to exercise most days each week (with different activities), you can typically train for the 5k distance in three days a week for 6-8 weeks ahead of the event (the longer, the better).
Why the 5k distance? Five kilometers (or 3.1 miles) is a great starting distance nearly anyone can train to accomplish. The distance is far enough to gain benefits of endurance training and short enough for young family members to participate. (I recommend at least 7-8 years old for most families. Younger kids can ride in a jogging stroller or participate in 1-mile “fun runs.”)
Start with supportive shoes, some space (or a treadmill), and some energy! Always begin any training program slowly. (Warm up and cool down, too!) If you’ve been running or walking regularly (3 times a week) for at least 3 months, continue to progress in distance or time each week. Aim for adding on no more than 10% of the distance or time you performed the last week – this is called the overload principle. (Example: If you ran 5 miles over 4 days last week, aim to run 5.5 miles total this week.)
Generally, increase distance before you increase speed. Before the culminating race, ensure you can run or walk at least 3, if not 4, miles. Once you reach that distance during training sessions, then incorporate speed intervals to boost your overall speed or elevate your overall pace.
Some sample 5k training plans for beginners or intermediates:
*Note: These plans are general recommendations for the general population. To receive individualized plans or specific advice for your health or needs, consult your doctor or personal trainer.
For families with special needs: People with physical limitations can often participate in a shorter distances, or participate in the 5k with a wheelchair or other mode of mobility. Contact the race director with specific questions for your family’s needs. People with respiratory conditions, emotional needs, or other special needs may be able to participate through additional practice, longer training time, and doctor recommendations.
Finding a 5k Race
You might be surprised after your first 5k… you’ll experience the fun and eagerly sign up for your next 5k, 10k, or even a sprint triathlon!
Have you participated in a 5k with your kids before? What other resources would help you try training for one? Leave a comment with any questions, and I’ll be glad to help as much as I can!