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Your First 5k (training tips)

Updated on March 7, 2007

The 5k is the most popular race distance in America today. No matter where you live, you are probably within easy driving distance to a 5k road race on any given weekend. Racing is a great way to stay in shape and a great way to give back to your community, since most 5Ks are fundraisers. 5Ks are great because just about anyone can do them, young or old or even pushing a stroller. If you have done no running previously, give yourself at least 6 weeks, if you are already running some, you can probably get by with a month. Either way, to begin training for a 5k there are a few things to do, and here are 5 easy steps to get you to success:

Training Programs

Several different types of training programs exist:

Walk/Run Programs- These type of programs incorporate both running and walking into training. The program usually picks a distance to complete and than breaks the distance down in periods of running and periods of walking.

Running for Distance Programs- These types of programs use distance for training (and do not focus must on time), each day is a different distance to complete (example- 1 mile).

Running for Time Programs- These types of programs use timed runs for training (and do not focus much on distance), each day is a different amount of timed running to complete (example 20 minutes).

It is important to evaluate each program and evaluate your needs to find the right fit. See my HubPages article 6-Week Training Plan for 5K for more information.

A few things to remember:

(1) Dinner the night before the race shouldn't be anything too greasy, pasta is always a favorite among runners.

(2) Make sure you get a good nights rest, but wake up early enough so that you are not rushed. Give yourself enough time to get to the race to get your race number pinned on and some time to look at the course and stretch .

(3) Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, don't skip it. Some good choices are are a bagel, a banana, or a peanut butter sandwich.

(4) Many of these races take place early in the morning, which can be chilly even in the summer. Take a sweatshirt or jacket you can throw on as you wait for the race to start, and don't forget gloves. It is important to dress warmly post-race too so your muscles don't tighten or cramp.

(5) When you line up, plan on lining up toward the back of the group. It is much easier on your self confidence to start too far in the back of the pack and spend the entire race passing people, than starting too close to the front and spend the entire race getting passed.

(6) When the race starts, it is important to run your own race. If you start out too fast, you will be pretty miserable before you are half-way through. Most races are marked so that you have a pretty good idea how far you have run. Maintain a comfortable pace, and toward the last mile, if you feel like you have some energy left, pick up the pace.

Step One: Get shoes/gear that fit

The first step is to get your into clothes and shoes that fit right, if your are uncomfortable in what you are wearing or if your shoes don't fit right, running is not going to be an enjoyable experience for you, and you probably won't stick with it. Buying the right running shoes is important, both for comfort while running and to prevent injury, the wrong shoes can cause back and leg pain. Ask store associate to help you pick out a shoe, and walk around for a while in the store with the shoes on (and run if you can) to make sure they fit right while you are moving. For more information on purchasing the right type of running shoes see my HubPages article Picking the right running shoes.

The clothes you wear are also important. You want to make sure the clothes you wear don't chaff, rub or cause blistering. You also want to make you dress for the weather, remember you will build up body heat as you run so make sure the clothes you wear pull the sweat away from you, or once you stop running the sweat will cool and cause muscles to tighten and cramp. For more information on the right type of running gear see my HubPages article Essential running gear.

Step Two: Pick a 5K and sign up

Check the newspaper or the internet to find your goal race. There are a lot of websites out there which sort races by date, distance, and location. Remember, the goal for your first 5K should be to complete it and have fun, not necessarily win, and definitely not make yourself miserable. When picking your race, make sure you leave enough time for adequate training (6 weeks if you are not an active runner). It is a good idea to mark it on your calendar, in big red pen so you can see it everyday as a reminder to stick with your goal! Once you have chosen your race, it is time to get running.

Step Three: Come up with a plan

Your plan for running your first 5K should involve both an "exercise plan" and a "healthy eating plan". I call it a "healthy eating plan" rather than a "diet" because you don't need to go on a diet per say, you just need to pay attention to the food going into your body and to make better choices about that food. Once you start running, your appetite will increase, don't deny yourself food, you need fuel in order to run. Rather just pick better foods to eat, stay away from sugary snacks or food loaded with fat, instead eat foods high in carbs and protein and low in fat. Granola bars and fruit are a great snack, pasta and lean chicken are also great choices. For more information on making healthy eating part of your plan see my HubPages article What to eat while running.

It is important to set up an "exercise plan" for yourself, mark out 6 weeks on your calendar and the workouts you will do for each week. Have a set plan will help to keep you on track, and will help you see your progress. It something comes up and you can't workout on day, move that workout to another day on your calendar. Everyone is different, and so every exercise plan should be different, however there are some universal goals that should be carried through all running programs. First, start out at a slow pace for a short distance and build from there. Give your self enough recovery time, and make sure you stretch, and don't be afraid to walk if you have to, any movement is better than stopping. Also, cross training is very important, it is good way to work other muscle group and build strength. For more information on creating the perfect exercise plan for yourself see my HubPages article A 6-week workout plan for your first 5K.

Step Four: Follow through with the plan

It is important to stay on track, especially when you are setting a time limit on yourself (6-weeks). Keep the date of your race written on your calendars in big red pen so you see it everyday, hang the racer flyer or race information on your fridge or your mirror to remind yourself. Set goals for yourself and reward yourself when you get there. A new running shirt for two weeks of training completed, and extra low-fat snack for a great workout. Don't let one missed workout derail your course, things happen, we get sick, or have bad days, get right back on it the next day.

Step Five: Show up on race day

A lot of people blow this. Don't be scared! You can do it. Even if you didn't quite live up to my training regimen, or aren't exactly where you want to be, you can still do it! Some call it a race day high, but you will find it down inside, a way to accomplish what you have set out to do. It's also a lot of fun to be part of something with a lot of other people and the rush will give you a boost once you get going. Walk if you have to, but don't let your goal fall by the side of the road. There's also usually some fun stuff after a race, like a food tent. It's a great place to enjoy your accomplishment and also a great place to meet like-minded folks and maybe sign up for your next one.

Get Started!

The popularity of the 5K is two fold. At 3.1 miles, the 5k is a distance that most anyone can train for and complete. And most 5K's are fund-raisers as well, which adds to their appeal. You should, however, be careful. Once you have run one, you may find yourself addicted.....


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