9 essential race training tips for beginners

Are you race training for your first big run or ride? Kaiser Permanente supports fitness events throughout the region, including runs like Lilac Bloomsday in Spokane, JDRF Beat the Bridge in Seattle, and the Big Backyard 5K presented by Kaiser Permanente in Redmond.

We also support bike rides such as Emerald City Ride presented by Kaiser Permanente in Seattle, 8 Lakes Leg Aches in Spokane, and the Kaiser Permanente STP presented by Alaska Airlines, a 200+ mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland.  

Learn how beginners can safely train for these challenging events. 

When Doug Felts, MD, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Port Orchard Medical Center started running a few years ago, he began what he called a “couch to 5K program.” He took small, incremental steps. Within a couple of months, he entered his first event, a 5K run. He completed his first half marathon less than a year after starting this training. Dr. Felts shares how you can apply the same approach to your own race training.

Prepare for your first race with these 9 steps

If you’re thinking about signing up for a beginning fitness event such as a 5K or 10K run or walk, these tips from Dr. Felts will help you train and be successful.

  1. Go easy on yourself. “At this level, your goal is just to enjoy it,” says Dr. Felts. Find out what clothes work best as you exercise, and what food keeps you energized and feeling good.
  2. Don’t train too hard. Whether you are walking, running, swimming, or cycling, you shouldn’t push yourself too hard. If you can’t hold a conversation while training, slow down a bit. And be sure to schedule rest days, too.
  3. Add time, distance, and intensity incrementally. Ben Betteridge, MD, a Kaiser Permanente exercise and sports medicine physician at Port Orchard Medical Center, developed a walking program that starts with a 15-minute daily walk, and over three months builds to 60 minutes a day.
  4. Get a mentor or coach, join a group, or find a reliable partner. Encouragement from others will help keep you on track.
  5. Take pride in what you’re accomplishing. “If you run, tell people you’re a runner,” says Dr. Felts. “If you bike, tell people you’re a cyclist. Be loud! Own it!”
  6. Two days before your event. Keep anxiety in check by getting plenty of sleep. Lay out all your race clothes and equipment, but resist those new clothes or shoes that might rub or cause blisters. And don’t eat anything you haven’t tried before on the eve of your race.
  7. On event day. Leave plenty of time to get to the race and find parking. Dress appropriately so you don’t become too warm during the race. Don’t use headphones — you need to hear what’s happening around you.
  8. After the race. Do some gentle stretches and drink a beverage that has some protein in it (chocolate milk is popular).
  9. Stay motivated. Enjoy your achievement as you plan your next step. You may want to consider a “destination race” — a weekend away featuring your next event — to keep you moving and motivated.


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