How to Train for Your First Race

Woman running

Training for your first running race can be difficult – where do you start? What program do you follow? How long should you train for? What even is “training”? These are questions that we constantly ask as sports physical therapists and strength and conditioning professionals.

Training means conditioning your body to adequately manage the future demands you want to place on it. This typically includes gradually increasing your volume or intensity of physical exercise over time in order to perform your best, prevent injuries, and avoid needing a sports physical therapy clinic like us!

There are a million different answers and a million different resources on the Internet you can utilize, which can be overwhelming. Whether it’s a 5K, marathon, triathlon, or Iron Man, here’s a few tips you can follow to streamline your training process: 

  1. Establish your goals: Are you aiming just to finish the race? Or do you have a goal time in mind? This can help you determine your pace and intensity of training sessions. 
  2. Identify your starting point: AKA have you already done any conditioning for this activity? (ex: recreational running/biking/swimming) If you are starting from square 1, you will want to begin training earlier than someone who has been consistently exercising. 
  3. Utilize cross training: This can include an alternative form of cardio (swimming, biking, running, HIIT training) and strength training! Different forms of exercise will strain different tissues, and is important for preventing injuries. 
  4. Taper before your race: Give your body time to recharge 1-2 weeks before race day – you shouldn’t be at your heaviest volume the week before. 
  5. Follow a Program: Depending on when your race is, there are several great running programs you can find online that fit your own time frame. Running Training Plans. has great running programs to download! 

If you have any questions about the above, the sports physical therapists and performance training specialists are always here to help at Cohen Health and Performance. While the points listed above are a great starting point for getting into a running routine, we can help with insight into calculating correct mileage for risk reduction, strengthening your muscles to complement your training schedule, and helping you train along the way to your race! 

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