7 Quick Tips on How to Run 5K for Beginners

24 Feb
Pro Runners
By Matthew Seely / CC BY-SA4.0

After some time (maybe years or decades) without exercising, it’s quite normal to feel a little insecure about how to start over. All those thoughts getting in the way: “I might get injured…”, or “what if I give up after a couple of weeks because it’s too hard for me?, or “I’ve never been athletic, I don’t know the techniques…”.

Let’s keep it simple, okay?

Just keep in mind that virtually anyone can run.

After you have cleared the basics (as I explained on Before You Start Running 5K), you’ll only need to follow these “7 Quick Tips on How to Run 5K for Beginners“.

With them, you’ll very soon see great results on your training, and before you know it, you’ll be losing those extra inches, running up the stairs non-stop, playing ball with your kid, or whatever your goal is.

 Tip# 1 – Be consistent with your training

At the beginning, you need to get used to this new habit. We all know it’s not easy. At some point, your mind will make you think of all the other – more pleasurable – things you could be doing, instead of running. But you need to stick with the plan. I gave some tools on how to do this on 3 Steps to Overcome Obstacles and Go Training. You’ll find it useful.

“At the beginning, the habit is more important than the intensity.”                                                                      – John Assaraf

The important thing here is to create the habit and to be consistent. You should make an effort to exercise 3 to 4 times a week. Once a week – of course – won’t do it. Therefore, don’t act like a crazy one that wants to run all the mileage on one single day. If you do so, you’ll end up all sore, feeling bad, and chances are you won’t be as excited to go running next time.

Take it easy at first and focus on building your fitness level. If you feel comfortable running right away, do it, otherwise, start walking. That’s fine as long as you do it consistently, 3 to 4 times a week for “x” amount of time (or “y” miles).

Tip# 2 – Run more each week

Let’s say that you decided to start just walking because you haven’t run for ages and you have no aerobic fitness at the present time. So, on Week 1 you walk for 30 minutes per day, for 4 days.

On Week 2 you will need to push a little harder. So, you could alternate 5-minute intervals: run for 5 minutes, walk for 5, then again run for 5 and so on until you complete the 30-minute training.

On the next weeks, you would increase the running intervals to 7 minutes and decrease the walking intervals to 3 minutes.

Some people prefer to run as long as they can at the beginning of the practice and then walk the rest of the time. That works too, as long as you complete the 30 minutes, and every week you increase the time dedicated to running.

On both options, you keep increasing (weekly) the running time until you reach the 30-minute mark.

Once you comfortably run 30 minutes you can start thinking about improving your pace (amount of time you need to run 1 mile). But that’s another story…

Pace definition



Tip# 3 – Shoulder Blades

When you think of a runner, how do you visualize her/him in terms of posture?

Are their shoulder blades forward as if they were ashamed of something? Or are they slightly back?

Easy answer, right? If you keep them forward, after a period of time running like that your breathing will be affected. On the other hand, with them slightly retracted back, you’ll let more oxygen into your lungs and running longer will be much easier.

But note that I said, “slightly back“. There’s no need to overexaggerate it.

Tip# 4 – Head Position

Going back to that runner we imagined on Tip# 3: what was her/his head position? Looking down, up or forward?

Exactly, forward, chin slightly up. It’s common sense, right? But be aware that during the run you may feel inclined to look down. It could be because the road is dirty, or because you’re going up a hill or just because you are tired.

But imagine there’s a string attached to your head as if someone is pulling you up. That’s the nice straight posture you want to keep. It will help you breathe more efficiently and run more properly.

Tip# 5 – Arms Position

Try to keep your arms on a 90º position.

You don’t want your arms moving all over the place while running (besides looking weird it would spend too much of your much-needed energy). They shouldn’t be too far from your body nor too close. Let them just slightly touch your body.

Tip# 6 – Feet Position

The majority of people are rearfoot runners (80%), meaning they land on their heels; another 15% are midfoot runners, and only 5% strike the ground with the front portion of their feet.

That being said, you should be informed that there’s no consensus on what is the most efficient form. Some advocate for the midfoot but there’s an increasing number of forefoot fans.

I used to run landing on my heels and changed to midfoot. It worked for me! It feels more comfortable and I’ve been improving my results.

This decision is totally up to you. But if you do decide to switch, be careful, stay focused, and take your time. You don’t want to get injured.

Tip# 7 – Slightly forward leaning position

Gravity will help you run and in my case, it also helps me land on my midfoot.

Again, note I said “slightly”. Don’t overdo it or you could end up getting worse results.

We’re almost done…

If you read these 7 Quick Tips very carefully you’ll realize that most of them are really common sense.

Let’s see… Taking a look at those elite runners: they never face down when racing, their arms are always close to their bodies, they get in such a comfortable mechanical movement that it just flows.

My suggestion to you is: visualize them when you start running, try to do the same in terms of posture and movement. But keep in mind that you’re starting your journey and you need to take it nice and slow. You’ll build up speed and distance. Trust me. It comes with time and consistency.

Now go out there and start putting these tips to work, and let me know your opinions, what works for you and what doesn’t.

I love to get feedback.

8 thoughts on “7 Quick Tips on How to Run 5K for Beginners

  1. Hello Eliane
    I have always enjoyed an easy run on dirt roads or the side streets in my neighborhood, it`s the only form of exercise that`s almost free apart from good running shoes.
    But as much as I love running and the long time I have been running(years) I have never done any long distance running, it`s usually just a 30-minute run to free my mind and work out a sweat.
    I have really enjoyed your 7 tips on running correctly, will watch out my running in the future.What Im wondering is the feet position, what do you think about Ethiopian or Kenyan long distance runners.I`m always fascinated at how strong and dominant they are in long distance running.
    I know they are not beginners and they run much longer than 5KM, but would just like to know what make them so good at what they do.

    1. Hello Roamy,

      I agree with you, Ethiopian and Kenyan runners are amazing! Since the Olympics in Mexico City (1968), they’ve been on the first positions of middle and long-distance running events. And that has lead to a lot of studies and researches to understand their great results. I believe it’s still not a closed matter, but some of the possible reasons are: genetics, those countries traditional diets, living and training at altitude, motivation to succeed financially, just to mention a few.

      As for their feet position, it’s been said that most of elite long-distance runners are midfoot or forefoot; and researches show that the percentage of midfoot strike increases as the running speed increases.

      So, it could be genetics, speed.. or both!

      I love that you run to free your mind and to get some workout done! I believe that running really has this power of providing us with a greater, “lighter” life. When I’m done with my training (often times just a 5K run), I feel relaxed, rejuvenated and at times I even end up with the answer to a problem I had to solve. 🙂

      Running on the streets is not always easy… What would you say are your main challenges?

      Wish you the best!.. And keep running!

  2. This type of training is not easy and is not for the faint at heart. I remember when I myself loved to ran and the burning in your legs and your chest is really something else. But the good part is that as you train your body will become more condition and it will not be as hard as in the beginning. This post that you have written with its seven quick tips is just so awesome, I am sure that those who read you you post will get a wealth of information that will cause them to become successful at this.

    1. Hi, Norman!

      I’m glad you enjoyed my post! Thanks for the comment.

      You’re right, when you start training it seems hard and that’s why you need to be consistent so that your body (and mind) get used to the new practice. Fortunately, after not too long things get much easier.

      Better yet, when you see the positive results in your body, energy level, and even humor, you get to enjoy more and more the new lifestyle.

      Do you still practice? What would you say is the best benefit of running for you?

      All the best,


  3. Hi Eliane,

    I don’t typically run long distances. If I do run it’s between 1 to 1.5 miles. But I’ve found that adjusting your breathing tempo(and volume) to match your level of output helps to maintain your pace.

    Also doing full body “scans” during your run to identify areas of your body or stride that need adjusting. So pretty much a scan to ensure you’re following tips #3 to #7, really helps.

    Great post. Keep running on!

  4. Liked your not too far, too fast, too soon approach, Eliane.

    Running is a great way to lose weight and the suggestions you give re how to start are just what I needed.

    As you have said in your article, most of the suggestions are common sense, however, common sense is not so common anymore.

    Thank you for a very helpful article. Will take on board all you have said and will try and build up some steam.

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