If your new year’s resolution is to get in shape, I personally believe there is no better way than to start running! A great way to motivate yourself is to sign up for a 5k race. Races give you a goal to work towards and motivation to push yourself on race day!
If you’ve never run a 5k before, here are my top tips to prepare for race day.
Set Your Goal: Find a race 2-3 months away. You’ll want to give yourself time to train, but you don’t want race day so far away that you’ll get burnt out before the race. If you’ve never ran before, a really good goal is to run the entire distance (at any speed). If you’ve run a little, another good goal is to finish the 3.1 miles in under 30 min (or faster!).
Run: Don’t be ashamed of where you are at fitness-wise. You can run what you can, and the great news is that you will only get better from here! A good way to start training is to run for a certain amount and then walk and then repeat. Try running slow for 5 minutes, then walking for 1 and repeating for 30 minutes. As your body gets stronger, you can increase to running longer and walking less. If you find yourself getting winded really fast, try running slower at a pace you could talk and keep a conversation. You don’t want to be sprinting the distances.
There are a lot of plans on the internet of what to run each day, but these don’t really account for individual fitness levels. It’s okay to follow a plan, but if it’s too hard that you can’t stick to it, adjust so that it works for you! If your workouts start to be too easy, it’s time to pick up the speed and distance.
A rule of thumb is that you don’t want to increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. This gives your body time to recover and adjust. A lot of runners pick up too much distance too quickly and start to get aches and pains and then think that their body can’t handle running, but it’s usually just too much too soon!
Be Consistent: It takes time to train your body, so you have to run multiple times a week to see benefit. Goal yourself to run for at least 3 times a week. It’s also important to strengthen your body as you develop as a runner. Most runner injuries are caused by stressing your body by increasing your running too quickly, or by weaknesses in the body that other parts of your body compensate for. Include cross training for leg and core strength to prevent injury and become a stronger runner.
If you start to feel pain, stop a workout and give yourself rest. If the pain doesn’t go away, see a physical therapist as soon as possible. Runner injuries are not a badge of honor and will only get worse if you ignore them!
Get the Right Gear: The only thing you need to run is a good pair of running shoes. The right shoes will help you be more comfortable and decrease risk of pain or injury. If your toes go numb, if you get blisters, or you get black toenails, it doesn’t mean that you are a real runner, it means your shoes don’t fit right. The best advice I can give is to go to a running specialty store to get fitted. My local store has technology to 3D scan your feet to recommend the perfect shoe for you, which will be different for nearly every person.
What you DON’T need is to overload on “runner” gear in order to be a good runner. You don’t need special gels, compression gear, fancy clothes or technology to run a 5k, and you don’t want to set yourself up to be dependent on these things in order to run. Stick to the basics and focus on the running.
Run Outside: You can’t do all of your training on a treadmill and expect to be successful racing outdoors. Running outside is much different than on a moving treadmill belt, and you have to get used to wind, weather, terrain, and hills. Treadmills are good for building cardio endurance, but they aren’t going to train you as well as running outside. It’s also nearly impossible to track your pace accurately on a treadmill so it’s hard to track your progress.
Be Positive: Achieving a new challenge takes hard work, and some days will be really hard. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is the point! It sounds cheesy, but positive self talk can really help you get through the tough days. One of my long training runs for my last marathon was in the pouring rain and I wanted to quit every moment of the first few miles until I finally told myself that if I could overcome running 3 hours in the pouring rain, I could overcome just about anything. When I changed my mindset from feeling bad it was raining to how much stronger it was making me, the run actually became more fun. (Also its good to train in any condition, because it can rain on race day too!).
Prepare For Race Day: Take a few days off before the 5k (this is called tapering) to let your body recover from your training. Last minute practice runs can do more damage than good, so don’t try to squeeze them in! If you wish you had trained different, train different for the next race! Check the weather, and lay out your gear, shoes, bib (and safety pins) the night before. Bring a cheap pair of mittens or old sweatshirt to throw away if it seems like it’s going to be chilly on race morning and you want to stay warm before you run (a trash bag works too!). Drink some water and eat a simple breakfast as early as possible so you have something in your stomach. Try not to eat the hour before the race.
Don’t get caught up in running too fast the first mile of the race. It’s hard not to get swept up with all the other runners and go out way too fast, but it will ruin the second half of the race for you! The first race I ever did was actually a 7k and I ran way faster than I should have, and ended up walking at mile 2. If you feel good after the half way point, then pick up the pace!
Enjoy the Moment: Smile for photos at the finish line and whatever your time is, be proud of your accomplishment! You set out a goal and worked hard towards it, which is something not everyone can say!
Read a recap of my latest 5k here!