Spring is here, the roads and trails are clear and you’ve set your sites on running your first 5K race. Congratulations! Now it’s time to set up your training plan. Training plan? Why do you need a training plan? It’s only 3.1 miles for goodness sakes. Seems easy enough to walk 3 miles… how much harder can it be to run the same distance?
'Easy Does It' Attitude
The truth of the matter, running is hard. It’s hard on the body… hard on joints, connective tissues and the cardiovascular system. Nonetheless, running remains one of the best means of improving fitness and health. However, anyone who is preparing for their first event is at risk of making simple mistakes which can lead to injury, disappointment and potentially having to drop out of the event. A race plan will keep you focused, keep you healthy and keep you on track for a successful racing experience.
First things first; choose a race date and location. This time of year it’s quite easy to find an event just about every weekend throughout the metro area and beyond. You might even identify an opportunity to participate in a race during a family vacation or a trip out of town.
Once you’ve chosen a target event, work backwards and count the number of weeks until the day of the race. Now you can formulate a plan based on weekly commitments and determine a realistic amount of time each week that you can dedicate to your training. These weekly “bite sized pieces” are a lot less intimidating than looking at the big picture all at once. Be honest. Are you a full time athlete? No. You have family, work, social commitments and other activities. The key is to set aside time for your training that can be accomplished successfully and without setting you up for failure. Even if you have less than one hour a day, 4 days each week, you can train effectively and be ready to run!
The Right Shoe
Shoes. You need a good pair of running shoes. As mentioned before, running is hard on the body. However a good pair of shoes is an important line of defense when beginning your training. A reputable running store will take the time to analyze your running gait and to be sure that you are wearing the best shoe for your two feet. Don’t buy a shoe because you have a friend who loves a certain brand or because you like the color of the shoe. Also, don’t make the mistake of running in shoes that are well worn and broken in. They might be comfortable, but chances are, they no longer provide the support and stability your feet will need for running.
Okay, now you are ready. Let’s start running! But not so fast… truly…take it slowly and play it conservatively at first. You’ve got to ease into this new form of exercise, especially if you are a non-runner. Your body is going to love this new activity but too much of a good thing and you’ll be sitting on the sidelines. Start by running AND walking. Alternate with a few short running efforts and then walk to catch your breath. Walk briskly and comfortably and once you have recovered, run again and then walk when you need to slow down. Gradually, over time, you will find that you are walking a lot less and running more during each workout. And before you know it, you will be running without walking at all!
So this all sounds great, but how long, how far, how much running should you do in order to be ready to run a 5K? In order to run a 5k, you will have to train to a 5k. Not every time you work out, but eventually you will want to run 3.1 miles during a practice so that you are confident on race day that you can go the distance. Again, start conservatively and don’t feel you have to cover 3 miles right away. Start with a distance that is achievable and then increase that distance by 10% each week until you reach your goal. A gradual increase will help prevent injury and burnout. Remember, too much too soon is how plans fall apart.
Your personal weekly schedule will determine how often you can train. Remember to set realistic goals each week and make a commitment to yourself. Schedule your work outs just like you schedule other appointments each week. By planning your training you are less likely to come up with excuses or distractions. However, don’t feel that you have to train every day for your race. In fact, several sessions each week will suffice and you should plan “recovery/rest” days in between so that your body can restore and rejuvenate. In addition, go ahead and include other activities like cycling or swimming… cross training is very beneficial and can actually help improve and support your running program.
Remember to include stretching exercises after your workouts and to stay hydrated. Running is one of the best ways to improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs and is a fantastic way to burn calories. But running is also quite strenuous, and over time can result in painful conditions… unless precautions are taken. Take the time to stretch after every workout, especially the muscles in your lower legs, hips and thighs and low back. Also, stay hydrated and you will find that you have more energy and that you recover more quickly between workouts. Stay healthy and energized so that you look forward to each session and before you know it, race day will arrive and you will be standing on the start line! Good luck with your training…now go get ‘em!
Just Do It:
The High Line Canal Run is Sat. May 12 in deKoevend Park in Centennial. The 5K run begins at 9 a.m.