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How to Prep for a 5K: A Starter’s Guide

by | Aug 6, 2021

A top down photo of 4 people running across a road crosswalk

Amateur runners, never fear.

A 5k run can be daunting but what a thrill when you cross that finish line! Here at Stella’s Place, we have a lot of experience hosting and participating in charity runs. We’re here to help you succeed every step of the way. 

We’ve all faced challenges this past year. It’s never been more important to find the balance between moving forward and being gentle with yourself. Tackling new challenges is one of many ways to regain your self-confidence. We’ve written this guide, not only for the run itself, but to help you pave your own way.

If you’re ready to take that first step, keep reading. And no matter how you run, wheel, or walk this or any 5K…welcome to your run!

A group of people running down a street towards a camera on a bright summer day.

Run to Give TO runners caught in action!

Jennifer and David Moore are avid runners and longtime supporters of Stella’s Place. In previous runs, they’ve taken on the responsibility of hosting practice runs for our participants ahead of the big day… so obviously we turned to them for advice.

A top down photo of 4 people running on a street crosswalk with white stripes on the pavement.

Jennifer had this to say:


1. “The best thing that beginner runners can do is not to focus on the distance but rather, the duration of each run.”

Start small: 10 to 15 minutes. Over the course of the next few weeks, try to work up to 20 or 30 minutes. 

While the Yorkville Run is just over a month away, this doesn’t leave too much time between training days to work up to longer intervals. But remember, it’s all about the progress you make. If you go from never running to sustaining a 10 minute run, that’s a huge achievement in and of itself.

A group of people walking away from the camera, all dressed in the same white shirts with a Stella's Place logo on the back. Ahead of the walkers you can see the bright blue sky on a sunny day.

The Easy Bre-Ezies Team on their annual 5K trek to Riverdale Park.

2. “Many people find a combination of run/walk (run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute) intervals make the training runs more manageable.”

It is important not to over-do it at the beginning or injuries will happen. Of course, you can start with smaller intervals of running and work your way up. 

Either way, listen to your body. Do what feels comfortable and learn over time how to stretch those boundaries (and muscles) in a way that allows you to challenge yourself, while still being safe.

Although the event represents a goal to work up to, it’s less about running the whole 5K than it is about building good habits that ultimately work for you. A helpful tool to use is the Couch to 5K app which can accompany you on your run and notify you to walk 1 minute for every 5 minute intervals.

A photo of 3 Stella's Place staff stretching before a run on the sidewalk in a park.

Stella’s Place staff stretching before a practice run for the 2019 Yorkville Run!

3. Warm up! If you do run the 5K, it’ll be helpful to get your muscles primed and your heart rate up before you set off.

A quick Youtube search will lead you to dynamic stretching routines designed to warm you up. Although many people have the natural tendency to want to skip the warm-up it’ll make for a much more fulfilling (and safe) experience overall.


4. Leave rest days between your run days. 

A good pace to start off with is 3 days/week of running, never back to back. It’s important to give your joints a break.

Wing and Alex standing back to back looking off into the distance, smiling.

The team at lululemon Queen St. pose for a photo for their Legacy Relay!

5. A steady pace is often a conversational pace.

This is true especially for beginners, and it will vary person to person. What’s important is that you’re building endurance. Everything else will follow. 

Don’t be afraid to take a break when you need it – when you’re running out of breath, when you can’t talk anymore. You still ran more today than you might have yesterday. Taking breaks is your way of continuing that habit.

3 different photos placed side by side of 3 different people, each posing for the camera.

Our supportive community member, Garbriela, poses here with a Stella’s Place banner at the 2019 Yorkville Run.

6. “Good hydration through the summer months is also critically important!

Most runners should not require any energy drinks or other fuel for a 5k run (or less).  Water is really the best option!”

Again – listen to your body and take care of it! Be your own advocate.


7. And of course, “the absolute most important thing, especially when you’re running in support of a cause like Stella’s Place, is to try to have fun!”

That’s really what we’re here for. We’re a mental health charity, not a track team (though we’re delighted to have experienced runners and athletes championing us). We care about your wellbeing first. 

A group photo of a few dozen people smiling into the camera. The photo was taken outside on a sports field outside of a red brick school before a 5K run. John Tory is in the middle of the photo and behind them all is the Stella's Place tent with the logo and two banners on either side.

Committed runners pause for a picture at our Brickworks practice run for the 2019 Yorkville 5K led by David Moore (top left) and Jennifer Moore (bottom second from right).

Remember, training yourself isn’t a punishment (like elementary school beep tests or extra laps?). It’s a way to nurture yourself. If you’re exploring this new habit, do so with care. 

We can’t wait to see how you make this run your own!

If you haven’t already, jour our Yorkville 5K Run team at Stella’s Place and raise funds for young adult mental health Link to page