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Is this your year to run your first 5K in Atlanta?

You know you want to. Maybe you ran in high school. Perhaps you're looking for something - anything - to get you off your couch. Maybe you just want to avoid that twinge of envy you feel when you see folks jogging around the neighborhood.

It sounds like you're ready to start running. Could this be the year you run your first 5K?

»RELATED: Put the fun back in your run: 7 of Atlanta's best running trails

The 5K is the most attainable distance for beginning runners, according to Ashley Walsh, who shared tips and a 5K training plan with Atlanta Trails

"You don't have to be a super athlete to do it. You just need a goal, a plan and some patience to get started."

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While it may seem backwards, signing up to run a 5K should be your first step. 

"First things first, make it real and sign up for a race!" Walsh advised. "Choose an event that is roughly 2-3 months out to give your body time to adjust to the training."

In the Atlanta area, you can find 5K trail runs like The Fan Tailgate 5K on August 4 or the Atlanta's Finest 5K on August 14. Other options include the Northside Hospital Atlanta Women's 5K at Cheney Stadium on April 14 or the June 2 Braves Country 5K, which is organized by the Atlanta Track Club.  

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If these seem like too serious a commitment, don't fret. Road Runners Club of America, which has been "growing the sport of running since 1958," notes that a new runner who is healthy and doesn't have a family history of heart diseases, is under 50, and at a weight that's within 20 percent of their ideal can move right along without getting their doctor's approval before starting a running program. 

From there, RRCA and other running experts recommended that those interested in embarking on their first 5K follow this strategy:

Make time

"If you don't have time to warm-up and stretch, just start with a couple of minutes of brisk waking, gradually easing into a slow jog, then a run." And make sure you are getting your fair share of running time. "Busy, over-committed people have to be reminded that their time counts as much as anyone's," RRCA noted.

Run to get where you're going

Run to and from work, if it's safe and practical, run to do errands, leave early on your way somewhere and have your family pick you up along the way.

Get some good running shoes

"Choose shoes that are made specifically for running," RRCA advised. "Purchase your shoes from a running specialty retailer where knowledgeable staff ensures you get the right shoes for your feet. Try on several different brands. Different people have different feet and needs."

(Contributed by the Atlantic Track Club/For the AJC)

Consider joining a club

"The great thing about running is you can almost always find someone to run with and somewhere to run," RRCA said. In Atlanta, running clubs are diverse and pretty much everywhere. Check out the Highland Runners Club in the heart of Atlanta's Virginia Highlands neighborhood, or one of the many running meetups in the area, some of which also socialize with coffee or beer after group runs.

Build up your endurance for 10 to 15 weeks before attempting a 5K.

"Remember, you want to give yourself enough time to build a base of miles so that you don't risk injury," RRCA noted. "If you have not been running, it is discouraged to go 'from couch to marathon.'"

Give it a rest

"You should not run more than three to four days per week (including a long run, which may only be one mile at first) when you first start out," RRCA advised. "You should not be working out every day since your body needs at least one to two days to recover. Building up to be able to run a 5k or more is a journey not an immediate activity."

Take it up a notch

If you really get moving and want to take it to the next (but still not extreme) level, consider the Peachtree Road Race. It's on 4th of July weekend every year and is the not-so-common distance of 10K. Once you have a few 5Ks in your running log, you might be ready to double your mileage - and double your fun! 

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