Ask the Expert | How to Train for a 5K

Posted by: Jamie Kutchman Wynne

Since the Annual 5K for Quincy will be here before you know it, we figured it would be helpful to call in an expert for some tips on how to properly train for a 5K. (And yes, even if you find yourself a bit out of shape or have never run before, this post is for you!) 

Today we're joined by Lawrence McKay, owner of AnteUp Fitness in Woodbridge, Virginia, who has been kind enough to answer some of our questions:

Lawrence, explain to our readers a little bit about your background in fitness and how you came to be a personal trainer?

I started my Personal Training career as a fitness coach. I’ve been a gym rat for years (since 2002/2003) but fell off the wagon as most people do. I collected a few bad habits and ultimately decided that enough was enough and made a push to get back into shape. The one issue I had was that I also needed to get a part-time job and didn’t feel I had the time to do both. I had helped people before in the gym so I joined those skills with an opportunity to supplement my income as a fitness coach. Shortly after, I decided that personal training was much more of a passion than being an IT geek for the government and AnteUp Fitness was born.

I am now a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist. I am also currently pursuing my Level 1 Precision Nutrition certification. The services I provide range from private training sessions to smaller group sessions to the larger outdoor bootcamps that have become extremely popular over the last few years. I also provide nutrition coaching and am do some public speaking/educating from time to time.

How did you become involved in The Quincy Conner Foundation?

I’m always looking for a good way to give back to the community. I was fortunate enough to share some mutual friends (and friends of friends) with Quincy from High School. I mentioned on Facebook that I was looking for a good 5K to possibly sponsor and I was immediately connected with Tracey Watson, who’s a member of the 5K race committee. Once I had the chance to speak with Tracey and take a look at the website, I KNEW this was a perfect fit.

I related to Quincy as we were the same age, went to the same school, we knew some of the same people and unfortunately both had issues with our hearts. Hearing his story hit SO close to home that I couldn’t just let this opportunity to help get past me. The more I learn about Quincy and see how many lives he’s touched, the more compelled I am to do more to help his legacy live on.

Why is it important to train prior to a 5K?

As with anything you want to do successfully, training and conditioning your body for a 5K is essential. Running, however great for the cardiac system, can also be very damaging on the body, if it’s not done correctly.  Learning and practicing proper running mechanics will make a huge difference in your 5K experience. It will help to reduce the risk of injury and ensure your best chance at a long, enjoyable running “career”.

What type of training regimen do you recommend for individuals who want to sign up for a 5K but have either never run before or aren’t necessarily in the best shape?

All runners should engage in some type of cross-training regimen. You don’t have to set any world lifting records or be some Crossfit phenom but you do want to build some muscle and teach your body to endure the beatings runners put their bodies thru. Depending on when your run date is and your current fitness level, I recommend 1-3 days of lifting weights mixed with Plyometric and body weight exercises, specifically focusing on legs and core strength. Having a HIIT circuit for one of those workouts would be a great idea as well. You can combine all of your training objectives (cardio conditioning, muscle strengthening and conditioning and Plyometric explosiveness) in one short, intense workout. Just remember to start at a pace that’s adequate for YOUR current level of fitness and progress only when it is safe and effective to do so.

The morning of the run, what are some tips for preparing yourself both mentally and physically?

You should treat the morning of your run a lot like your birthday. Get a good night’s sleep the night before so you can wake up energized. Eat a light meal, maybe even your favorite protein shake. Don’t eat or drink anything new to avoid having an upset stomach. Stay hydrated but don’t overdo it. Put the cap on the drinking about 30 minutes prior to your start time.

Get to the race site early and allow any pre-race butterflies to settle. Maybe even go find a quiet spot to sit down and relax.  Also, I suggest having a good playlist to take your mind off of any distractions. Nothing puts you in a better mood than good music. Use it to your advantage.

To make sure you are truly comfortable, wear clothing that is loose fitting and won’t cause any chafing. Your shoes should be ones that are comfortably broken in but not overly worn. If you still have a few good weeks before your race day go get your gait analyzed so you can ensure your shoes are the proper fit for your foot type.

Do you have any suggestions for setting a good pace so you don’t get tired mid-race?

Most people feel that because it’s a race that you’re supposed to shoot out the gate as fast as you can. The opposite is actually true. Think about the Tortoise and Hare. Slow and steady wins the race….or at least gets you across the finish line. Run at a pace where you can still carry on a light conversation with whoever’s running next to you. If you can’t speak without gasping for air, you’re running to hard. Slow down a bit and enjoy the fresh air.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I say enjoy yourself. Most 5K’s are family events and they’ll most surely be some festivities to partake in before, during and after the race. Allow yourself to enjoy them. Bring the family out and let the kids have a great time as well. You never know who you’ll inspire with the experience.


A huge "thank you" to Lawrence for taking the time out of his busy personal training schedule to answer our questions! We hope this gets everyone motivated and to lace up those running shoes and get training! See you in September!