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How to prepare for a 5km run

In partnership with Richmond Tigers

Here's a week-by-week program from the experts

A middle aged fit man and woman wearing activewear and listening to music on their phone while laughing
A middle aged fit man and woman wearing activewear and listening to music on their phone while laughing

Running is a fantastic way to increase your fitness and setting a goal, like completing a 5km run, can help add extra excitement to your regular exercise routine. Following a dedicated 5km training regimen is a good way to gradually build muscle and increase your aerobic fitness, to get you into shape for a 5km run. So how long do you need to train to hit the 5km? And how can you best fuel your body? We asked Richmond FC High Performance Manager Peter Burge and Richmond Football Club AFL/AFLW Dietitian Dominique Condo to break down a week-by-week running program.

Your 13-week training plan

The most important thing, says Peter, is to “start slow and safe”. Remember, before beginning any new exercise program, it’s important to see your doctor, especially if you are over 40, pregnant, have any chronic medical conditions or recovering from injury or illness.

  1. 1

    To start, Peter says, alternate between walking and jogging for one minute each, for a total of 10 minutes. Do this three days a week, always with at least a day in between.

  2. 2

    On your days off running, you can rest completely or try another form of moderate-intensity exercise, such as swimming or cycling, if you prefer. Are you looking for activities on your non-running days? nib GreenPass offers members free-to-access discounts on fitness subscriptions – and it’s free to join.

  3. 3

    As your fitness progresses, start to decrease the walking time and increase the running time until you can comfortably run for 10 minutes straight, says Peter.

  4. 4

    Once you have achieved this, add another two minutes each week. Build to a total time of 30 minutes. “This may take two to three months to achieve depending on age, injuries and general health,” Peter adds.

It’s also important to fuel your body as you begin your running program. Shorter distances like 5km “do not require the same nutritional strategies of longer runs, such as carbohydrate loading or a specific hydration plan,” says Richmond Football Club AFL/AFLW Dietitian Dominique Condo. “The most important thing for a beginner runner of distances up to 5km is to ensure the basics of nutrition are achieved” – and as for hydration, “a normal water intake (~2L per day) should suffice.”

Once your prep work is done, it’s time to run your first 5km! Here are some more tips on
running the full distance in one go.

Young blonde woman with diabetes prepping for a run outside while wearing a glucose monitor

Mentally prepare

“The training and preparation you have done should be the evidence that running 5km is achievable,” says Peter. “The key is not to run too hard early – slow and steady wins!”

Warm up adequately

Thoroughly stretch using slow, dynamic and sustained stretches, particularly focusing on your thighs and calves. Swing your legs back and forth and arms side to side, and do a few squats, lunges and side lunges to activate the muscles you’ll use during your run.

Eat two to three hours before and hydrate well

It’s important to support the body by focusing on adequate fuelling and recovery, as well as having a well-balanced diet consistently, explains Dominique.

“Although distances up to 5km do not need a huge intake of carbohydrates beforehand, it’s important to make sure they are consumed approximately two to three hours before the run so they can be digested in time and used as an energy source,” she says.

Adds Peter, “drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration and loss of performance. Hydrate well post-run also”.

Wear the right clothing and shoes

It’s important to wear supportive shoes made for running, fitted by an expert. “Seek advice from a professional based on the type of feet you have,” suggests Peter. “This will go a long way to preventing any unwanted injury.”

Wear light clothing that won’t restrict your movement, sunscreen and a hat during the day, and reflective clothing if running at night or early in the morning.

Did you know that nib GreenPass members receive discounts on sportswear? nib Hospital, Extras and combined cover members automatically receive these benefits, but if you’re not ready to commit to health cover, GreenPass gives you some of the perks of being with nib without paying a cent!

The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner. 

1 Basic level GreenPass only

Teammates from the Richmond Tigers celebrating a goal at one of their home games

In partnership with

Richmond Tigers

The partnership between the Richmond Football Club and nib has been strong since 2018. In 2021, nib announced its commitment to equal sponsorship of the club’s AFL and AFLW teams, and support of the Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI) to pave the way for greater representation of women and diversity in sport.  

nib continues to support the Richmond’s digital platforms to tell the stories of AFL and AFLW players as a way to encourage all Australians to live health first.