To improve your speed before your next running event, focus on gait and footwork.

How to Jump-Start Your 5K or Half Marathon Training

Big news: registration is now open for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon, 10K and 5K on February 6, 2022!

While February might sound a long way away at the moment, six months is about right when you start training for your first race. What do you need to do to get your training off the ground?

The first step, experts say, is to test yourself to see where you are right now. It doesn’t matter whether you’re currently able to run a mile, or walk 3 blocks – you just want to know. So lace up your shoes, hit the pavement, and check out your stamina, strength, and cardio fitness.

How far can you walk before you feel exhausted or your muscles start to ache? Now pick up the pace – at what point do you get out of breath? The majority of your training should take place at or below 85 percent of your maximum target heart rate. With these landmarks in your mind, and set yourself to push past them bit by tiny bit. Remember, training for a race is, well, a marathon, not a sprint.

Motivation is perhaps the biggest factor affecting your success as you introduce a new fitness goal into your routine. Help is available from numerous websites such as, Runner’s World, and Hal Higdon, which offer training schedules geared towards complete novices, experienced runners, and everything in between.

A handy app called Couch to 5K breaks down the process into incremental steps and aids you in planning your progress along the way. Another essential app is Map My Run, which helps you find routes in your area and track your progress with mileage info and more.

Many people also find it useful to check out our 9-week training schedule to refer to in planning your week. Gadgets known as wearable tech can also help you track your health and fitness.

Most important of all is to take it slow and easy and give yourself at least one day of rest each week to let your body recover. And if you have any question at all about your fitness to take on a 5K or Half Marathon, get your doctor’s okay before you begin training.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.