So, you’ve officially signed up to run your first 5K race. Congrats! Running a 5K, which is equivalent to 3.1 miles, is a huge commitment, and also one that requires a lot of preparation and training. But don’t worry — not only will you feel accomplished after running it, it’s also a great way to embark on a new, healthy lifestyle.
“Races can be so much more than just something to check off the list,” says Bill Pierce, co-author of “Run Less Run Faster” and a longtime marathoner. Pierce is also a professor at the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training in Greenville, South Carolina. “They can also be part of a lifelong healthy lifestyle.”
You can do it. In your preparation to hit the pavement, keep these tips in mind:
You may feel inclined to push yourself right away, but that might not be the best thing for your body so soon.
“If you get too enthusiastic, too quickly, it may not feel good, and you get discouraged — or, worse, injured,” explains Elyse Braner, a Washington DC-based running coach. For the first two or three weeks, Braner suggests doing only a walk/jog combination for about 30 minutes at a time, three times a week. “You might get to a 5K in week 3 or 4,” she says, noting that in as soon as eight weeks you could be ready for the race.
Invest in good running shoes
It’s important that you’re using a high-quality pair of running sneakers in order to avoid injury.
“Visit a store that specializes in running shoes, not a sporting goods store,” advises Randy Accetta, director of coaching education for the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). “The experts there know how to find the best fit for your foot and stride.” In addition, you’ll also need socks, a running bra if you’re a women, and moisture-wicking running shirts and shorts.
Find a 5k buddy
Having a friend or family member on board to run the race with you always makes training a little less of a challenge. You can work out together and encourage each other (especially during those times you feel like giving up).
“It’s always more fun (and less nerve-wracking) to run a race with a friend,” says Monica Olivas, a personal trainer, running coach, marathoner and blogger at RunEatRepeat. “Get them to sign up with you, then train together, too — it’ll help you stay accountable.”
Or find a 5K training group
Peruse online listings for a training group you can join to help guide you on your way to running the race.
“If you choose to train in a group, look for one with other beginners so you have runners of your pace to train with,” says Rebekah Mayer, USATF, RRCA, National Training Manager, Life Time Run. “A group that also has more-experienced runners can help you learn more about the sport, and [those runners] may become future training partners as you increase your pace and distance.”
Eat the right foods
“Fuel is everything,” says Ann Whitaker, RD, supervisor of Nutrition Services at Kaiser Permanente. “You want to eat a balanced diet every day, so that your body is fueled and ready for action.” It’s important to eat well for about two months before a 5K, and avoid trying any new foods beforehand. Always start with a healthy breakfast (a whole grains-fruit-protein combo is a great start). And don’t ditch carbohydrates, which sometimes have a negative implication.
“Carbs are your main source of energy,” Whitaker says. “You will feel fatigued if you don’t get in enough.” In addition, you should always have water nearby, and should drink about 5-8 cups of water each day.
Run the route beforehand
If possible, run the race before you even run the race! It’s a great way to really familiarize yourself what the race is going to be like. Plus, by determining that you in fact can complete the race, you’ll have even more motivation to do so on race day.
Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to an awesome 5K.
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.