First Things First: Part 7 – Running Your First 5K

Welcome to First Things First! This series will help you prepare for a range of life changes. Think of each installment as an instruction guide that will either give you time to locate a safe landing spot or help you hit the ground running. Each article will contain a handy checklist you can reference so you can remain calm, cool, and in control of whatever life hands you.

Running Your First 5k

The good thing about deciding to take on the challenge of running in a 5k race is that you’re recognizing the importance of keeping yourself fit and healthy. This is a big step and it’s one of those major adulting empowerment moments. Good for you!

The bad thing about deciding to enter your first 5k run is that you know that getting ready for it will pit you against your worst enemy — your own deep desire to avoid pain and exhaustion. After all, a 5k is 3.1 miles long. Psst! Wouldn’t you rather sit down on this nice, comfy couch? Hey, look, Doritos!

First Things First: Part 7 - Running Your First 5k
While it may sound enticing to relax and watch some T.V. after work, training for a marathon is the healthier choice!

So, how do you motivate yourself to prepare for the race? Actually, it all begins with the first step — and you’ve taken that just by deciding to run. The rest is just a matter of pacing yourself and tackling one thing at a time. So relax. Let us map out some training tips so you’ll be able to take the whole race in stride.

1) Give yourself enough time to train for the race

About 3 to 4 months of training will give newbie runners adequate time to prepare. Most new runners start off with 10 to 20 minute training walks and then build on these by adding more training sessions for longer periods. The trick is to set up a work out schedule that will work for you and also be convenient enough for you to stick with it.

2) Don’t Run — Walk!

The most important thing about getting up to your racing speed is to ease your way into your training routine. Start with walking. The idea is to avoid exhausting or hurting yourself to the point where you give up. Keep your walking to amounts of time that you can manage at first. Bump up them up when you’re ready for it. Couch to 5K recommends a beginning training routine of 20 minutes of alternating between 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking.

3) Stretch

First Things First: Part 7 - Running Your First 5k
Stretching before and after a run are vital to keeping your muscles in good shape!

As with walking, stretching your muscles will keep them flexible and help strengthen your joints to help you avoid injury. But you don’t want to jump straight into hurdle stretches, planking, yoga ploughs or other advanced running stretches until your muscles are stronger and more flexible. Ease yourself into stretching by taking 5 minutes before your walk with some basic warm up stretches. On your training off-days, you can work on strengthening exercises called the “Standard Core Routine”. Each of the 6 exercises takes about 1 minute each and has three reps. You’ll be done in 20 minutes!

4) Enjoy your training runs

There have been lots of innovative running apps coming out over the past decade. Most of these record the time and distance of your run. While that kind of accounting can be useful, it ‘s also a little boring. However, now there are interactive story-telling apps that put you in an engaging multi-part story that keeps your runs exciting and nudges your adrenaline. The only way to find out what happens next is to go running. Current titles include Zombies, Run!, BattleSuit Runner , and Dungeon Runner. If you’re a parent (or a die hard fan) and you want to get your kids to walk with you, Pokemon GO is the hottest app on the planet.

5) Be flexible with your training

First Things First: Part 7 - Running Your First 5k
Punishing yourself for missing a workout is not the way to train for a marathon. Be flexible and patient with your workout schedule!

Some days, your schedule, the weather, a mild injury, or something else will interfere with your training. Don’t punish yourself for missing day — for example, it’s not your fault if there was a traffic jam on the home-bound commute. Reschedule your training times during the week if it’s convenient. Can’t make up your scheduled runs? Maybe you’ve missed a couple of days? Avoid over-training. Instead, increase the distance of your runs slightly (10-15%) and throw in some hill sprints to build strength.

6) Set Reachable Goals and Reward Your Successes

Sure, a bowl of ice cream is a good idea, but sugar isn’t always the answer. When you finish your first 30 minute run, treat yourself to a movie. When you finish your first half mile, buy yourself a new pair of running shoes. Make the rewards fit the accomplishment. The important thing is that you keep yourself motivated.

7) Run a few lightweight races before your big one

First Things First: Part 7 - Running Your First 5k
Participating in a color run is a great way to introduce yourself to racing before your big day.

In Texas, all fun runs, color runs, and 1k runs are good places to test yourself in a friendly race surrounding. There are also virtual runs for charity that can be run at any location.

8) Race Day Tips:

  • Volunteer at a 5k race to learn how they work while you’re training. This way, you’ll know what to expect.
  • Find out everything about the race route in advance. You’ll learn the lay of the land and you’ll hopefully get familiar enough so that you don’t get lost.
  • Throttle it back. Keep your training light during the week of the race. Most runners take two days of rest right before the race.
  • Keep your pace. Setting a too fast pace for your first 5k race could work against you. Find a sustainable pace that keeps you moving instead of burning out too soon.
  •  Arrive early and warm up. Finding parking on race day, let alone using the restroom before the event, can turn into a monstrous time suck. You want to arrive so that you’re not anxious and have time to warm up. About 5 minutes of light jogging and some stretching should get your body primed before you line up at the starting line.
First Things First: Part 7 - Running Your First 5k
And you’re ready to run your first marathon…Good luck!

Happy running!

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Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.