“If exercise were a pill, it would be the most popular pill in the world.”
Running is one of the most popular sports in the world. It is practiced by people of all ages and backgrounds.
So, what's all the fuss about?
Well, that's what we'll be covering today.
One of the many reasons why running is such a popular sport is that it requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. All you need to build a running habit is a little bit of motivation.
People run for many reasons. Be it for the weight loss benefits or because it has been known to improve mental health. There isn't one of us that couldn't benefit from developing a daily running habit.
What Types of Running Can You Do?
There are two main types of running: short sprints and long distance running.
Whilst practicing short sprints can do amazing things for your cardiovascular health and can help with weight loss, we'll be focusing on long distance running today. As it has so many more benefits.
First, let's discuss the types of long distance running you can do, and why signing up for races is one of the best things you can do to kickstart your running habit.
Many people run for fun and aren't interested in racing. This is often the case due to the fact that people think running races involve competing against other people.
When in fact, races are best when you compete against yourself and can be a great way to motivate yourself to improve.
If you find yourself getting bored with running, races can be a great way to reinvigorate your running life.
Types of Races
There are two main types of beginner runners that we've met over the years:
- People who have decided to give running a go - because of the health benefits or many other reasons
- People who have signed up for a race, and now realize they actually have to learn how to run…
What most people find surprising is that signing up for a race as a beginner runner can actually make or break your running habit.
And in fact, we recommend all beginners sign themselves up for a race before they go for their first run.
Many people begin their running journey after signing up for a charity race. Whilst raising money for charity is its own benefit, there is actually another huge benefit to race day deadlines. One we don't often realize exists.
S.M.A.R.T goals is one of the most scientifically backed goals setting systems in the world right now. Setting yourself a race day as a deadline actually falls in line with one of the most important S.M.A.R.T elements - category 5, Time-Based.
The research behind S.M.A.R.T goals tells us that as humans we are more likely to complete a task if we have both external pressure and time-based pressure applied to our goals.
This means if you know you will have to run a marathon in 6 months and people are sponsoring you to do it, you are much more likely to start running than if you're trying to run with no deadline in mind.
If you really want to develop a running habit, sign yourself up for a race.
Many charity races fall within the 1 mile range. This range is short enough to encourage beginners. And even if you can't run, you can power-walk 1 mile in around 20 minutes.
This is a great starting goal, but you shouldn't stop there! As you will read later, the more running you do, the more health benefits you can reap.
1 mile is roughly 1.6KM.
We think all beginners should sign themselves up for a 5KM race before they begin running. The distance is not so long as to seem impossible but it is far enough that you will have to train to be able to complete it.
5KM is also the shortest distance competitive 'distance' running happens at. Being able to compete in timed races and watching your PB (personal best) get better and better will make you never want to stop running.
Running 5K will take an average of between 30-40 minutes. It's a great length to aim for during your daily run.
Many beginners sign themselves up for a 10KM. Without knowing that running a 10KM will involve running non-stop for at least an hour.
However, if you like a challenge then this is a great first race to take part in. It would take a beginner around 5 months (18 weeks) to train for a race this length. That is more than long enough to form a running habit!
If you’re feeling brave and adventurous, why not sign yourself up for a 10KM race.
If you're looking for a real challenge then maybe signing up for a half marathon might be the right choice for you. Half marathons are 21.1KM long, and take just over 2.5 hours to run.
We don't find many beginners that consider the half marathon. Most are happy to start small with a 5KM race or want to jump straight into a full marathon.
However, we think a half marathon is a great learning opportunity for anyone interested in long distance running. Even if it doesn't sound as impressive as running a full marathon.
During long distance races, mental strength is often a lot more important than your physical fitness. The best way to build this strength is to practice for increasingly longer distances. We would recommend trying a half marathon before a full one.
It is not uncommon for people to begin their running journey after signing up for a marathon. They then start to panic.
The good news is that there are many amazing 'couch to marathon' plans available. And with a lot of carefully planned practice runs, anyone can train to run a marathon.
The most important thing to bear in mind is that you need to allow yourself enough time to complete the training. So don't sign up for the marathon that is happening in two weeks' time, try the one 6 months away.
A marathon is a 42.2 KM race that takes the most experienced runners just under 4.5 hours to complete. Marathons are a tough mental challenge as well as being a physical challenge too. If you do want to run a marathon, allow yourself enough time to train.
An ultra marathon is technically any race longer than 27 miles.
We do not recommend that beginners try an ultra marathon before completing a traditional marathon. Many experienced runners would struggle to complete an ultra marathon.
These types of races should be a long term goal rather than a first step.
Running Clubs can often be a controversial issue amongst runners.
So we will preface this section with this statement:
no one method will work for everyone, but we do recommend experimenting as you may surprise yourself.
So what are running clubs and why should you consider joining one?
What are running clubs?
Running Clubs are organizations that aim to bring together people interested in the sport of running. Yes, running is often considered a solitary sport but many people find themselves surprised by the community that has built itself around the activity.
Every club is different, but they are all built around the same ideas: celebrating safe running, providing a social space for running enthusiasts, and organizing events to build a supportive community.
Running in a group may sound like your worst nightmare. However, joining a running club can have many benefits.
Running clubs offer a wide range of activities from weekly park runs, charity events, litter picking along popular running routes, and even traveling to big races.
At a running club, you will have the opportunity to learn from intermediate and veteran runners alike. You will also be able to use their motivation and enthusiasm for running to help sustain yours.
Many people find running to be a lonely activity or much easier with friends around. If you don't have any friends that run, a running club is a great place to make some.
Running clubs tend to also offer a few financial benefits too. Most running clubs will be able to offer you a discount when signing up for races. Many local sports shops will also offer discounts to members of certain running clubs.
The Pros and Cons of Running Clubs
As we said earlier, everyone has different tastes, so what we consider cons might actually be pros for you and vise versa. That being said here is a list of what are commonly considered the pros and cons of running clubs:
- Discounts when entering races
- Company when running
- A chance to learn from more experienced runners
- Discounts on running equipment
- Encouragement and Motivation
- Outside pressure (S.M.A.R.T motivation) to keep up the habit
- A chance to meet new people with similar values and interests
- You have to run with other people, running loses its solitary element
- You often have to pay for running clubs
Running clubs aren't for everybody but many people will find surrounding themselves with people who have similar goals to them incredibly motivating and beneficial. Plus joining a club means you'll have an extra Christmas party to go to every year.
Benefits of Running 5k
Now that we've talked about the best ways to start your running journey (the HOW), let's talk about the benefits of starting one (the WHY).
Why all exercise will offer you an amazing array of health benefits, running is particularly special for a few reasons.
Firstly, running is cheap. With running, there is no need to commit you to an expensive gym contract and you don't have to pay instructors to teach you how to run. All you need to get started in the sport is a pair of well fitting shoes and a water bottle.
Secondly, running will take up very little time in your day. After a month or two running 5KM will take you less than half an hour.
Yes, that's right, you'll be able to reap all the benefits we're about to list for half an hour's exercise a few times a week. We can all create half an hour of space in our day. We even know some really busy people who run home from work in order to fit in their daily run.
Thirdly, running is convenient. You don't have to waste time driving to the gym to run. You don't have to queue to use a machine if you want to run.
You simply have to step out of your door and you're ready to start. AND you get to use your own shower at the end of the run.
Finally, one of the best things about running is that you can see benefits from it whether it's your only form of exercise or you mix it into a more diverse routine.
Those of you who already have an exercise routine can max out its benefits by adding three 30 minute runs a week. But you can see all these benefits even if all you do is run 5KM three times a week.
You Might Like: How to Get Your Kids to Run & Enjoy It!
The Health Benefits of Running 5K 3 Times a week:
Now, let's get into the good stuff - the amazing health benefits of running 5KM a few times a week. Fans of running have long claimed that running is the cure for almost any ailment… but is that the case?
Let's find out…
Excellent Cardiovascular Exercise
Running falls into the category of Cardio Exercise.
What is Cardio Exercise? And why is it good for us? How can I tell if I need to do more Cardio?
What is Cardio?
Lots of people who are not looking to lose weight write off Cardio as a waste of time. As it is often exclusively seen as a quick way to lose weight.
However, Cardio is much more, and something everyone should consider including in their exercise routine.
“People tend to think of cardio in terms of steady state exercise, like jogging,” Trevor Thieme comments “But really, cardio is anything that A) raises your heart and breathing rates, and B) improves the function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.”
Why is Cardio good for us?
Cardio (or Aerobic Exercise) aims to challenge both the lungs and the heart. By challenging your cardiovascular system regularly you will strengthen it and notice many benefits in your day to day life.
Experts recommend that we should all be taking part in a cardio session 2-4 times a week. Many also state that cardiovascular exercise is essential in a healthy lifestyle.
Running is one of the most popular forms of Cardio and is the most convenient to do (unless you have a pool in your house).
Running for half an hour 3 times a week has been proven to both lower bad cholesterol levels, and raise good cholesterol levels. It can also improve your lung capacity and improve your resting heart rate.
Regular Cardio has also been shown to improve your immune system. This includes reducing inflammation, reducing disease risk, and improving antibody response. This alone is reason enough to take up running.
It is recommended that beginners stay away from ultra-endurance cardio as it can actually damage your immune system in the short term.
How can I tell if I need to do more Cardio?
If short but slightly intense bouts of exercise (like carrying in the groceries or walking up a couple of flights of stairs) leave you sweating and out of breath then you most likely need more Cardio in your life.
It is also recommended that smokers and people who have given up smoking do more Cardio to help their lungs recover.
Good For Your Joints
As a runner one of the most frequent things you will hear is: 'Oh, I wish I could run, but I don't want to damage my knees.' This is most people's go-to excuse for avoiding running.
The good news is that, if done correctly, running can actually improve the state of your knees.
We're not saying that if you're two weeks away from a knee replacement operation that running 5KM a week will solve all your problems.
However, running regularly has been proven to increase joint strength.
This key study, which had over 2736 participants and lasted over 8 years, showed that the more we run, the less likely we are to be afflicted by osteoarthritis or suffer from knee pain.
Why does running lower your chances developing of osteoarthritis?
Well, the researchers behind this study concluded that running could have done this in 2 major ways.
- As we're about to discuss in the next section: Running can lead to a lower BMI which reduces the strain on our joints
- Running strengthens all our leg muscles including the ones that support our knees
They briefly mention in their report that there are many other minor ways in which running supports our joins, including our knees.
Help You Lose Weight
Exercise is one of the key components to losing weight, along with a balanced diet.
The key to losing weight is to put your body into a caloric deficit (you burn more calories than you eat). Finding an efficient way to burn calories will make this a lot easier.
Running is an incredibly efficient way to burn calories.
We've got better news for you: the more you weigh the more calories you will burn whilst running.
The only sport that is better at burning calories than running is cross country skiing…
If you run at 10K an hour (5K will take you half an hour) at 160 pounds you will burn roughly 752 calories per hour, and a 200 pound person will be able to burn 936 calories. Doing the same on a Rowing machine would burn 560 and 651 calories respectively.
If you were to up that speed a little to 15K an hour then a 160 pound person would be able to burn up to 1033 calories per hour, and a 200 pound person would be able to burn 1289 calories an hour.
With numbers like that it's easy to understand what a difference 3 half an hour runs a week can make in your weight loss journey.
Why is running so good for burning calories?
The main reason that running is such an efficient form of exercise is that it uses your whole body. Much like the squat, running utilizes the majority of the muscles in your body. The body needs to burn a lot of calories to power these kinds of movements.
On top of that, running helps you to build muscles which the body is then forced to burn more calories to maintain, even in a resting state.
Great for your Social Life
In this section we're going to cover two ways that running can improve your social life:
- By widening your social circle and deepening your current relationships
- By improving your self worth (whether or not your body changes)
Let's start by looking at how running can widen your social circle and deepen your current relationships.
Once you enter the world of full-time work, it becomes tough to make new friends. Many people take up new hobbies just because they want to meet new people.
Meeting new people
Running offers the opportunity to not only improve your health but to meet new people on top of that.
The easiest way to meet new people whilst running is to join a running club. There are many other benefits to joining a running club - like finding new motivation, being held accountable, and being able to learn from the veterans.
Running clubs are also a great place to meet people with similar interests, values, and goals as you. It can be really hard to build a new habit like running when no one around you supports you.
If you need that kind of support a running club will welcome you with open arms.
Build better relationships
Running also offers the opportunity to build closer relationships with the people around you.
Do you have a friend that you don't see enough? Maybe you want to spend more time with your Mom? Why not sign up for a race and train for it together? Nothing creates a bonding experience like the highs and lows of learning how to run together.
Running offers a great excuse to spend more time together, learn more about each other, support each other, and improve your health on top of all that. Win, win!
Great for your Mental Health
This benefit and the previous one flow right into each other.
Running can introduce you to a boatload of new people, but it will also help you build a better relationship with yourself.
Build a better relationship with yourself
Another way running can give us a better social life is by improving our confidence and self esteem.
A lot of people assume that running will make you feel better about yourself because of the weight loss element. However, exercise has been proven to improve our outlook on life (whether we're losing weight or not).
According to the Mental Health Foundation, regular exercise can reduce the frequency of panic attacks and anxiety. One of their studies showed that exercise instantly improved alertness, made the person calmer, and made them feel more content about their life.
Studies have also shown that setting ourselves challenges (like learning to run 5KM) and completing them is one of the fastest ways to build long-term self-esteem. People who complete self-set challenges are more content with their lives.
Running reduces stress and makes you more resilient to it
If we truly understood the negative effects that stress has on our bodies then most of us would instantly change our lifestyle.
Here are some of the effects stress can have on our bodies:
- Sleeping problems (which have knock-on effects in most other areas of your health)
- Migraines and severe headaches
- Chest pains
- Heart problems
- Raised blood pressure
- Damages your immune system
- Can trigger the development of IBS and other autoimmune related conditions
- Increase the likelihood of panic attacks and anxiety
- Can trigger depressive episodes (even in those who do not suffer from clinical depression)
- Can cause skin problems like acne and psoriasis
- Can cause arthritis
- Can trigger asthma attacks
- Can cause seizures
- Back pain, jaw pain, and neck pains are often caused by stress
Stress related illnesses account for $300 billion of the money spent on health care each year in the US alone. This number has been going up every year for decades.
Don't worry because we have some really good news for you: not only can running instantly reduce your stress levels but in the long run, it can change your brain and make you more resilient to stress.
Running causes your brain to produce more neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine - both during and after your run.
Over an extended period of time your brain begins to do this naturally. A running habit can literally change your brain and make you a happier person.
This study shows that running can improve your ability to cope with stress, and that the sport is a great stress relieving activity.
We've already waxed lyrical about how running is one of the most affordable forms of excise whilst simultaneously being one of the most beneficial.
So, in this section, we're going to breakdown all the essential running expenses to help you prepare for your new hobby.
When it comes to running the difference between injury and happy jogging is a set of good running shoes.
Although, it may seem like a large initial expense (running shoes can cost anywhere between $60-$250) you'll thank us for this recommendation as you'll be saving a lot on medical bills.
We recommend picking yourself up a good pair before you hit the two-month mark. Any good sports/running shop will have a fitting station and will be able to help you find the perfect pair for your running style.
We tend to lean more towards Brooks running shoes versus others including Asics.
Whilst some people can run without any form of entertainment, we definitely aren't those kinds of people.
Many people like to run whilst listening to audiobooks or podcasts. If this sounds like something that appeals to you then it will be worth investing in some good audiobooks. Many podcasts can be found free online.
New runners may benefit from listening to high energy and motivational music whilst they run. We have invested in a music streaming service that allows us to download playlists so we can listen without interruption.
Whatever your entertainment of choice, we recommend downloading it to your phone before leaving as you might not always have enough signal to stream on your run.
Key and Phone Holder
This is not an essential running item but it greatly improved the quality of our runs once it entered our lives.
We have damaged many a phone screen whilst running over the years, so now we don't leave without our arm-strap phone holder.
This is also a great place to store our keys without having to worry about losing them or someone grabbing them out of our hands.
Don't forget to pick up a waterproof one that can survive a run in any weather.
This is the armband that we use.
Whilst drinking or eating a lot before a run can cause stitches, gently sipping whilst you are running can have the opposite effect.
It can also help reduce the pain of lactic acid burning in your body.
This is very common when you begin a new sport like running, and is nothing to worry about. However, the production of lactic acid in the body whilst running can often cause a burning sensation in your throat.
Sipping on water whilst running will help prevent this.
Running Club membership
We've mentioned running clubs a couple of times above, so check out our sections called Running Clubs and Great for Social Life for more information on these clubs.
If you decided that you would like to join a Running Club then the membership fee will be pretty much your only regular outgoing.
Running Clubs tend to be cheaper than gym memberships and they can also offer you discounts on other running expenses (including discounts at local sports shops and discounts on race sign up fees).
Race sign up costs
If you're interested in running races regularly then you will need to prepare yourself for the registration costs. The Boston Marathon, for example, costs around $225 to sign up for (and it is one of the cheaper marathons out there).
You may also need to pay for travel costs and accommodation for out of town races.
The good news is that many Running Clubs can get discounts on registration fees for smaller races and charity races are usually free to participate in.
As sports go, Running is a really affordable option. Most of these expenses are very minimal and/or avoidable.
Can Help You Live Longer
We're not saying that running is the exercise equivalent of the Sorcerer's stone and will make you live forever.
But many studies have shown that a regular running habit can extend your lifespan by years.
Exercise is often described by experts as 'the closest thing to a miracle drug' we have.
It has a positive effect on every part of our body, so why wouldn't it boost our life expectancy.
Cardio activities like running can fight age-related diseases thanks to their cognitive-boosting effects. Running also helps to improve memory in older runners, as well as their ability to focus.
This research found that running reduces your risk of getting many deadly diseases like cancer.
Can Help You Explore New Places
Want to see the world? Take up running…
Whether you end up exploring more of your neighborhood, state, or an entirely new country running offers us all sorts of opportunities and excuses to visit somewhere new.
Want to run a marathon?
Why not sign yourself up for the one in Rome, and take a two week holiday while you're out there.
Running Clubs often plan events that allow you to run in some of the most beautiful and interesting places in your local area.
Running gives you the opportunity to explore, whilst being productive and getting some exercise in.
What To Keep In Mind When Running 5K
Here are a few of our top tips for first time runners:
Don't try and run 5K on your first ever run
Most of us won't be able to run 5KM on our first ever run (if you did, congratulations, we're very jealous). In the same way that most of us wouldn't be able to perform a note perfect cover of Piano Man the first time we step up to the ivories.
When you first start running it's important to take this at a slow and steady pace. As frustrating as it might be, this is the best and safest way to build a consistent habit.
There are many free 'couch to 5KM' programs and apps online. We started our running journey through one of these apps. They're designed by professionals to help you build up the stamina and breathing skills you need for safe and enjoyable runs.
Starting slow will help you avoid injury, sore legs, and mental burn out.
Always stretch before and after a run
Most runners learn this the hard way, so save yourself some pain and follow our advice. The easiest way to get injured in running (really in any kind of sport) is not to warm up properly.
This study from the Mayo Clinic showed that both warming up before exercise and cooling down afterward severely reduced muscle soreness, and lessened the runners' injury risk.
The good news is that these activities don't have to take very long. Warming up can be done in 5-7 minutes, and cooling down safely can be done in 10 minutes with an organized approach.
Not sure how to go about warming up and warming down, check out these videos from internet superstar Yoga with Adrienne. These videos have made huge differences in our lives:
How to warm up before running:
How to cool down after a run:
Recovery days are important
Many new runners jump straight into running 7 days a week. However, if you talk to any experienced runner they will most likely tell you that at most they run 5 days a week.
Because rest days are essential to our well-being. Rest days improve muscle recovery, reduce injury risk, improve our mental health, and prevent us from getting burnt out.
To make the most of your new running habit, we recommend beginners starting by running three times a week, before moving up to 5 days if they want to run more frequently.
Get the right pair of shoes
We mentioned this briefly above, but the best way to avoid the majority of common running injuries is to wear the right pair of shoes.
What 'the right pair of shoes' varies from person to person. We all have different gaits and make contact with the floor in different ways. We would recommend visiting your local sports/running shop and letting them help you pick out the perfect shoes.
Conclusion: What Are You Waiting For?
So, (assuming you're not finishing this article whilst out for a run because you found it so inspiring. If so, well done you!) What are you waiting for?!
It's time to get out there and start running!
Get yourself a Couch to 5K podcast, a Rocky worthy playlist, and a pair of trainers!
Running gives you the power to:
- Improve your sleep
- Explore new places
- Make new friends
- Improve your self esteem
- Live longer
- Save money on gym memberships (whilst still getting fit)
- Improve your joint health
- Improve your mental health
- Improve your social life
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Jeremy.
I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods