Whether it's for fundraising or just for fun, running a 5K race is a great way to break into semi-competitive running. At 5 kilometers -- 3.1 miles -- the 5K presents the perfect distance for entry level and casual runners. Don't let the relatively short distance fool you, though. Running a 5K requires you to formulate and complete a training regimen, but the good news is that you can complete the training program on a treadmill with ease.
The first phase of training requires you to get comfortable with walking and running on a treadmill. Most treadmills have a pre-programmed 5K race setting, but that will come later. First, you want to plan several timed sessions, between 20 and 40 minutes, to gauge your level of fitness. The exact time will vary depending on your stamina and endurance, but it's important to plan four sessions spread out over at least four days on the treadmill. Walk at a brisk but comfortable pace, a pace that allows you to have a conversation but that still physically taxes you.
In your next set of sessions, walk for five minutes, then try to run for up to two minutes, then walk again for five minutes. Repeat this cycle for 30 to 45 minutes. Do three to four sessions of these cycles. The level of intensity will vary, but you should have slight difficulty maintaining a conversation during each session. Also, during each session, increase the amount of running time and decrease the amount of walking time.
Set the treadmill for its pre-programmed 5K setting. It will pre-populate a distance countdown and track your progress as you go. Set the treadmill for a pace that you can comfortably maintain. Don't try to speed through it. If you have to slow down to a walking pace for a stretch of the 5K, feel free to do so. For casual runners, the amount of time it takes to complete the 5K is less important than establishing the stamina and endurance to complete the race. Rest for at least one day, then do another practice 5K. You may be ready to race after just a couple of practices.
Treadmills offer you a lot of control over the exact conditions of your training and practice. If you have an idea of the race conditions of the 5K you plan to run, you can customize a program that mirrors the ups and downs of the race course with the treadmill's incline/decline system. You can also set countdown displays for time and distance, establish a base heart rate, and adjust the speed at which you run. Be careful not to set the speed too high or set the incline too steep for your level of fitness.
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.