5 Tips for Staying Motivated for Your First 5K

Q I’m training for my very first 5K and I’m having trouble sticking to my training routine. Any suggestions for how I can stay motivated? – AMANDA


A Congratulations on starting training and welcome to running! Motivation is definitely the key to success and a problem that many new runners face.

Everyone has different reasons for running, so it’s important to tap into why you began running in the first place. Why did you want to run a 5K? List your reasons for why you started training and, in addition, also list what you hope to accomplish through running and see what comes up. Something on your list may really speak to you and provide motivation.

When you have made your list, put it in a very prominent place like on the bathroom mirror or on the kitchen refrigerator. Having a daily reminder of our goals by keeping them physically visible helps keep them in the forefront of our mind and may help get you out the door. Trying to change behaviour is difficult and it’s easy to become distracted and lose focus with all the other demands of life.

Here are some other general tips that may help you stick with your training routine too:


1 Pick an appropriate training schedule

Begin your training where your fitness level is right now. Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it has to be just right – not too hard and not too easy. If the plan is too hard, you risk getting injured and becoming discouraged, which can set you up for failure. On the other hand, if the plan is too easy, it will not stimulate the necessary training effects. Your workouts should challenge you slightly; some moments may feel hard, but doable. You should feel a sense of accomplishment when done, not total exhaustion.


2 Time of day

Exercise first thing in the morning, if possible. Set out your clothes the night before, set the alarm, get up and go before you even have time to think about it. When we exercise at the end of the day, we have all day to talk ourselves out of it! Fatigue, family, or work commitments can often interfere with even the best of intentions. Getting a run in first thing in the morning is a great feeling and an excellent start to the day.


3 Be accountable

Recruit a running partner, join a running group, log your workouts online, or use a journal to track progress. Tracking daily mileage, pace, and/or weekly volume can be helpful. Knowing you are meeting up with a running group or partner can keep you on track too. You can also incorporate rewards. For example, when you meet the weekly mileage, reward yourself with a pedicure, a massage, or some new running clothes.


4 Goal setting

Break your 5K goal down into smaller segments. Focus on running for short time intervals or short distances like 400 metres first, rather than the entire 5km. Increase the distance or time you run in small segments. Register for a race so you have a commitment on the calendar. Also, look ahead to sign up for future races to help keep you training. Target something that interests you or challenges you – like a trail race, a longer distance, or a destination race to keep things interesting!


5 Objective measurements

Measure your resting heart rate, blood pressure, weight, percent body fat, and/or circumference measurements to help track your transformation along with tracking your mileage. Seeing change can help keep us on track. Your resting heart rate and blood pressure should become lower as your fitness level improves. Monitoring weight, percent body fat, and/or circumference measurements can also provide motivation. In your training journal, note how your clothes fit and how you feel – do you have more energy throughout the day? Are you sleeping better? Note even the most subtle changes! – SUSAN



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