Ryan Polly is a Senior Learning & Development Specialist in the Organizational Development department at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Ryan Polly is a Senior Learning & Development Specialist in the Organizational Development department at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Spring is a great time to get in shape. And while some decide to train for a marathon, many people are starting from scratch and can’t even think of running 26.2 miles!

The 5K is a popular race because the distance is something that almost anyone can tackle with a little training in just nine weeks. These 3.1-mile runs are less competitive than other events and often benefit a local non-profit or a national good cause. Just think: you can start running, reap the physical benefits AND help out your community, too!

To start training for a 5K you simply need some sneakers and a little motivation. It would help to have a digital watch so that you can track your running time, but don’t feel you need to go out and spend money on the fancy running gadgets. It is definitely not necessary.


First things first, you have to want to run this distance. It is 3.1 miles and may be the furthest you’ve even traveled on foot. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?” Perhaps you are looking to get healthier or lose a little weight. Maybe you are running for a cause or want to bring awareness to an issue.

Whatever the reason, it helps increase your motivation when you know why you are running. Once you have your answer, write it down! Post it on social media, your fridge and even your screen saver. Keeping this goal in mind will help you stay motivated to stick with the nine-week plan.

The Plan

Once you are motivated, it’s time to lace up those running shoes and get moving! There are lots of 5K plans to choose from and many are designed for those who have never run before. One great aspect of these plans is the first few weeks are a mixture of jogging and walking. You won’t be expected to sprint out the door!

The UVM Medical Center’s Get Moving Program follows the Couch to 5K plan that you can download here (GetMoving5K). You can also find Couch to 5K apps for your smartphone. Most are free.

We’ve seen more than 80 people follow the Get Moving Program and successfully finish a 5K. Many of those people are now running 10Ks and half marathons, and a few are planning to run their first marathon this year.

When Motivation Wanes

During the first few weeks of your program you are most likely going to be diligent. It’s something new and exciting, and you are determined to stick with it. As the days continue on and life gets in the way, it is easy to miss a few workouts and begin to notice your motivation slipping. The following suggestions can help you to get through these moments:

  • Revisit your goals. Remember the goal sheet that you wrote and posted all over the place? Take a look at it. Read it. Remind yourself why you are doing this. Look at it again and again until you feel that spark come back. This can be an incredible motivator.
  • Schedule your workouts. If you notice yourself saying, “I have to run three times, I’ll get to it” and the noticing the week is over, it could be that you don’t have a specific schedule to follow. The training plan suggests that you run three days in a week. But it is up to you which three days you choose. It can be very helpful to get a calendar and outline exactly what days and times you are going to run. Then, let your family and friends know that this is when you are training. Having it scheduled will help you to stay accountable.
  • Evaluate how hard you are training. The training runs should be at an easy pace. You should be able to hold a brief conversation without huffing and puffing. If you are running at a pace that makes you feel out of breath, you are running too hard. Slow yourself down on your next run. One of the common ways to get injured is through training too hard. Slow easy runs, which resemble jogging, will help you feel energized after your run rather than drained.
  • Elicit help from friends. Remember that social media post you did at the beginning? Now’s the time to let your friends know that you are losing motivation and ask them to help keep you going. If you can get friends to commit to running with you it can really help. It’s a lot easier to skip a run if you are only cheating yourself. Once you have a friend waiting for you to get out the door, it changes the dynamic making it much harder to quit.
  • Picture yourself finishing the 5K. Take a moment to visualize yourself crossing the finish line. The feeling of pride and accomplishment is overwhelming. You did it! You finished your first 5K! Your friends and family are there cheering you on. You are a runner!

Running a 5K is an exciting experience and can truly change your life. The great news is that to prepare for a 5K you don’t even have to run every day. Like everything in your life you do need to practice in order to be successful. By running three days per week for nine weeks you will have practiced enough to be able to run and finish a 5K.

Find a 5K near you by clicking here!

Ryan Polly is a senior learning and development specialist in the Organizational Development department at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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