Cardio is Hardio: How to Train for a 5k

I’ll be honest, I used to never enjoy distance running. I hated running the mile in gym class. My short legs carried me through lots of sprints during track season though. I was actually quite speedy in my day; I believe I might still hold a record as part of a 400-meter relay team at St. Clair Middle School?! Like, last-name-on-the-gymnasium-wall record? Don’t quote me on that though.

Anyways… the point is, I discovered a new found love for long distance running since my awkward middle school days.

The thing is…you can too. I started participating in 5k races just a few years ago. I was always the one that used the excuses of “I can’t do that” or “I would die” or “I’m not built for long distance.” Yet, secretly I yearned to prove to myself that I could do it.

So, I did.

And it wasn’t impossible. Hard? For the first part, yeah. But running is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. It’s convincing yourself that your body CAN do it (it can…biologically humans are made to run. See any Jurassic Park movie). It’s mostly calling yourself out on the bullshit you’ve been feeding yourself. For instance, I beat it into my brain that if I wasn’t a size 00, I couldn’t be a distance runner. Let me tell you: there were plenty of people who were much larger-framed than me that totally kicked my butt in races! It goes to show you that there is no such thing as a “runner’s body.” You really just need to have a body 🙂

I started running as a sort of stress-release therapy–the more I put into it, the more I got out of it, both mentally and physically. I took it slow, and continued to build my endurance and strength each time I laced up and popped my headphones in.

If running is difficult, run more. This lesson applies to about anything in life. 

So how do you start to train for a 5k if you haven’t ran any sort of distance since middle school? I’ll take you through the process.

The best way to start is to…just start! Find a 5k near you that is 2 months away. 8 weeks! You can do this. Literally, all you have to do is Google “5k’s near me” and I bet you’ll find at least one a month, for a year. Ironically that has been my goal this year–to do one 5k a month for a year. Get it!

Once you find one, make that YOUR goal. And work at it every single day. Try to find a friend that will tag along–better yet, find a friend that will train with you. For many, having someone to share the experience with makes it that much more fun. I like to mix it up and do some races with friends, and do other races solo. Running races alone feeds my independent streak, which is something that is important to me. It also allows me to be totally absorbed in a FIRE running playlist–I’ve got some great playlists on my Spotify account if you’re interested (search Chelsea Bonser). You’ll thank me later–especially if you listen to my “We Jammin'” playlist.

agriculture animal animal photography blur
Photo by Matthias Zomer on

I’ve done a few 5k races with my doggos in tow–which is a great bonding activity and great exercise for your pooches. Normally I walk these, for safety reasons 😉 I have a St. Bernard + Bloodhound mix that is over 100 lbs…so running really isn’t the best idea. Or maybe it is…


Which, speaking of walking, there’s no reason why you can’t walk during your first race (or really any, for that matter). Walk the whole thing if you want. You’ll get a good feel for the distance and the atmosphere, and you’ll gain confidence in your next race. And guess what? No one cares.

If walking isn’t part of your fitness goals for your first race, here’s the schedule that helped me the most in preparation for a full on 5k:

Week 1: run 1 minute, walk 90 seconds–do this 8 times
Week 2: run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute–do this 7 times
Week 3: run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute–do this 6 times
Week 4: run 6 minutes, walk 2 minutes–do this 4 times
Week 5: run 9 minutes, walk 2 minutes–do this 3 times
Week 6: run 12 minutes, walk 1 minute–do this 3 times
Week 7: run 15 minutes, walk 1 minute–do this 2 times
Week 8: run 30 minutes straight

An important thing to note is that you’ll want to do these intervals about 3 times a week-say Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you can do them more, that’s great. But definitely aim for 3 times a week.

It helped me to write these out in my planner each week (see my other post on planning). Make yourself a priority; bosses don’t cancel important meetings.

So, where to run you ask? I like a mixture of outdoor and treadmill running. I don’t mind the treadmill, especially when it’s very hot or cold outside. I live across from a dairy farm which owns a large chunk of land around my home, connected by a lot of ditch roads that are perfect for trail running. I’m lucky to be able to access and use these–but you can easily run around your neighborhood, pasture, local high school track or hiking trails, to name a few options. The key is to find places where you enjoy running so it will become habit to lace up and head there.


You’ll be amazed if you commit to a schedule like this–it truly will transform your life. You’ll become committed to bettering yourself, which radiates in all aspects of YOU.

Although your focus will be on cardio, it’s important to include other forms of exercise such as strength training, into your regimen. I’ve mentioned Roni before in other posts, but I would highly recommend checking out Roni Lynn Fitness for a TON of helpful videos and advice for strength training, both at the gym and at home. Strength training will only help your running form in the long run.

Let’s talk food. A clean[er] diet helps a ton. I’ve tried the restrictive diets aaaannndddd that’s a no for me. It’s too stressful. I want to eat all of the things. Small changes make a big difference though. Cook at home (like actual cooking, not heating up pizza rolls), drink as much water as you possibly can and overall, just make a conscience effort to fuel your body with nutritious food. You’ll see a difference in your endurance and recovery.

The most important take away from this is that YOU CAN DO THIS. All you need is a little grit. And less excuses. And running shoes. A cute workout outfit can never hurt either.

And let me reiterate that I am by no means a fast runner. Like, you can characterize my running speed as a bunch of turtles trying to make their way through a sea of peanut butter. Quite the visual, right? 🙂

You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go.

Make your own goals, and go out and slay them. I think you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

“Our running shoes have magic in them–the power to transform a bad day into a good day; frustration into speed; self-doubt into confidence; chocolate cake into muscle.”

-Mina Samuels 










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