I've run my first 5K - what next?

I've run my first 5K - what next?

Running your first 5K gives an enormous sense of satisfaction.  Many of those who have completed our Couch to 5K beginners’ running course find it hard to believe that only a couple of months previously they were daunted by the prospect of even a couple of minutes continuous running!  So knowing you have completed over 3 miles running non-stop is a tremendously tangible achievement.  However, the period following the race can be crucial in determining whether or not running becomes a lifelong habit.


After any big event, there is a risk of anti-climax once the initial euphoria has worn-off.  At this point it is vital to start planning how to maintain your running going forwards.  Consider the factors behind your success so far, which may include

  • A realistic goal with a fixed timescale
  • The camaraderie and support of running in a group
  • An achievable but progressive training plan
  • Having a safe environment in which to run
  • Being organised e.g. having your kit ready the night before

According to the latest research, it actually takes longer than previously thought to form a habit.  On average, you have to keep a behaviour up for 66 days (nearly 10 weeks) for it to become automatic.  So make sure you keep as many of the contributing factors in place as possible to ensure ongoing success.

Changing the Variables

So what would be a suitable next running goal?  It doesn’t have to an increase in distance, although that is often what springs to mind.  There are several other ways to continue to challenge yourself, which involve changing at least one of the following variables: distance, speed, frequency, type.  Targeting a 10K as the most obvious example of an increase in distance, as such events are increasingly popular (see our Facebook page events for inspiration).  However, just as valid a target would be to stick to the 5K distance and simply aim to get faster.  With the Parkrun movement expanding throughout the country, there will always be the opportunity to test your progress over this distance.  For added motivation, use the level playing field of the Age Grade percentile results if you enjoy a competitive edge.

You could also aim to run more frequently – three days a week rather than two, for example.  If you are planning to exercise more than three times per week, I would always recommend additional cross-training (e.g. resistance training, swimming, Pilates or cycling) in preference to further running sessions.  In my experience this gives superior results in terms of both overall performance and injury prevention.

Lastly, there is tremendous scope to vary the type of running you do.  This is a relatively overlooked element to progressing as a runner.  Shorter, sharper sessions such as tempo runs and hill intervals require you to work at greater intensity and push the limits of your lactate threshold.  Over time this will improve your lung capacity and the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer.

So what are you waiting for?  Get planning your next challenge!  In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”

JB Fitness & Wellbeing membership offers structure, support and guidance to those who have recently started running (for example via our Couch to 5K course) to continue and develop their running. Our women-only training sessions are fun, safe and non-intimidating. For further information on how to join visit our Membership Options  page 

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