5k Training Plans for Young Athletes

Family Turkey Trot Prep

Turkey Trots are my favorite Thanksgiving tradition. Even more than football, Stovetop stuffing and pie. I have run local Turkey Trots in many different seasons of my life: during my college basketball season, on military bases, with zero training, with extensive training, pregnant, with a stroller, with a DOUBLE stroller, and with toddlers. There is nothing I love more than taking our canned food donation to the start line and running three miles so I can justify consuming 2500 calories in one meal.

I really love it when all family members participate on race day. I have written two, 4-week programs (beginner and experienced) for your young athletes to use for their upcoming Turkey Trot. In fact, save them to be used before any 5k or similar distance run. They are FREE to download and use!

Turkey trot training for kids, kids 5k training plan

For those of you who don’t know me well, I am a runner! Well, I have been a runner in the past. Okay, I really enjoy racing and train out of necessity. (My sister, an avid runner and marathoner who logs literally a thousand miles a year, is rolling her eyes right now.) Marathons and fast fartleks are not on my calendar these days, so I run with my kids and it’s juuuuust right.

The photo below was at last year’s race in Spokane, Washington. It was Roman’s first 5k, and with a little hot apple cider boost mid-race he made it! Carrera and I started behind the boys, and I snapped this happy photo as we passed them. This was also right before I tripped on a crack and really gracefully sprawled onto the sidewalk. I pretended not to hear the dozens of audible gasps, threw my arms up with a “I’m okay!”, then urged Carrera to run a little faster.

Turkey trot

The goal for these programs is to increase physical activity and help prepare family members for a positive race day experience on Thanksgiving. These programs are designed with my own children’s well-being in mind, and have been created based on my training experience and research. Four weeks will be enough time to establish a basic fitness level and remain focused without becoming overwhelmed. We are catering to younger, less experienced runners as well as all around athletes who want to challenge themselves on race day. Parents, this is also a great opportunity to lace up and run with your athletes!

Beginner Plan

The beginner program incorporates both running and walking. Runners will begin by running 30 to 60 seconds, then walking for the same amount of time. They will progress to running 7+ minutes continuously. Follow the suggested schedule but be ready to adjust depending on your athlete’s physical and mental capabilities. Roman, age 4, will be following this training plan! I plan on being very flexible with his “training”, and will focus on positively building endurance for race day. Be okay with whatever progress is made. Walk as needed and keep things fun.

Run in different locations to keep training exciting. Our preferred place to run is a track or neighborhood street/loop. It is stroller friendly and my kids can run at their own pace without having to speed up or slow down for a sibling. I can easily keep track of everyone and can sprint through the grass field when Roman finds the only puddle within miles...in his new shoes. We recently tried to run at the track and it was full of high school athletes, so we drove home and ran laps up and down our long driveway. Keep “training” FUN.

Experienced Plan

Carrera and I will be following the experienced plan. This plan is for kids, and even adults, who have a higher fitness level and want a challenge. The plan incorporates a little speed work, tempo runs, and a couple of longer runs to build stamina and endurance. This plan is perfect for young athletes who want to run the entire race, and who want to give a competitive effort. Make sure your athlete has an established level of fitness before they start this plan, and be very aware of how their body is handling the training. Running too much too soon at a high intensity can cause injury. Athletes with regular sports practices throughout the week can modify to get their runs in on the weekends. We want healthy runners toeing they line on Turkey Day.

Ideas For Play

Kids should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. At LEAST! I included a list of active play ideas for non-running days at the bottom of each program. You can find videos on our Instagram account @raisingrookies and on this website. Make physical activity a regular part of your kid’s day.

Race Day

Every runner has their favorite tips to pass along when it comes to race day, especially when it comes to running with kids. Here are a few things I’ve learned from past Turkey Trots:

- Be positive and encouraging throughout the entire race.  Kids will base their overall experience on how they felt during the race (not just physically), and they will be more likely to race again if they see that you are proud of their efforts.

- Dress in layers but don’t overdo it (leave the snowsuit at home-your 5year old can’t run in that thing).

- Do not arrive too early, making your kids stand out in the cold before they run. This zaps their enthusiasm and energy.

- Bring water for kids, even though you might not think you need it in cold weather. Sometimes it is more of a moral booster than a real physiological aide.

- Competitive runners should allow time for a warm up. Younger kids will have the opportunity to warm up as the race begins, as the crowded runners take a few hundred meters to thin out and speed up.

- If you have a stroller and want to RUN the race, do not go to the back with all of the other strollers. Scope out the runners around you and start with those of your ability level.

- Adapt and adjust during the race. Walk if your kids want to walk. Run fast if they want to run fast. Encourage them to give their best effort and rely on their training.

- BTW, if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, give yourself plenty of time to race (and wait for every kid to finish), shower, get ready, prep food, and host! You CAN host AND race!

Get Out and Run

A little preparation can make a big difference to young runners on a cold, windy, snowy Thanksgiving morning. Start your training with us and spend quality time with your kids this month.

No organized races happening in your area? Watch our Instagram account for details on taking part in a virtual race. We hope to see families walking, running or trotting together this Thanksgiving. Let’s keep our kids active and our families strong as we head into the holiday season!


Click here for a printable PDF of each 4-week program or screenshot the plans below.