A 5K is 3.1 miles; you got this! Don’t be scared by the distance, as this is the perfect run for beginners. If you’re ready for your first 5K, understand that mastering the fundamentals will take you far.
Running your first 5K is an awesome way to get yourself motivated towards catalyzing your fitness dreams. Besides being a fun and exciting way to begin a new exercise program, it is also an amazing opportunity to run with friends while making new ones. Numerous psychological studies have shown that human beings love being together; with that in mind, know that it’s much easier to get out and run when you have a group to accompany you.
Here are 5 tips to help you ease into the process and prepare for a successful and fun first 5K:
Buy The Best Shoes
Choosing the right shoes can be the most important fact when training. Picking a store that has customized shoes, gait pattern assessment, and even video recording analysis to track your form, will yield the best results. If this is your first time buying running shoes, you can also have your foot and arch impressions measured by a trained professional at places like Road Runner Sports.
Plan on spending $75-$175 for a good pair.
Fact: Don’t skimp on this. The more quality your footwear, the more injury prevention you’ll have in your pocket! Make sure you talk to friends and other runners about brands/shoes they’ve chosen and take your time picking just the right ones. After all, what’s more important than your feet?
Also, talk to your physician and possibly a running coach to make sure that your physiology and biomechanics are safe to begin with. Make sure that you don’t have any sharp pains while running. Feeling fatigue and soreness is okay, but any kind of stabbing or throbbing issues while you run can actually deter you from other health goals.
Extra credit: Get your gait pattern checked
Remember that your body begins recovery when you’re finished sweating, but the real magic of muscle repair occurs while you’re asleep. Giving your body the adequate time to rest and recover is more important than the training itself.
By resting enough, 7-8 hours per night, your body can keep up with your new training schedule, and above all else – help to prevent injuries. Make sure that you rest and eat properly the day before your race as well as directly after. Numerous studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes a decrease in glucose tolerance and alters endocrine function.
Give yourself at least eight weeks to train for your first 5K race. Remember that while running from ground zero, you must focus on easing into the process. Be sure to set up a training schedule that you can be honest with yourself about sticking too. Also, make sure you’ve secured 2-3 different running partners to keep you accountable.
Perspective: Marathons take six months to train.
In your first week, spend about 10 to 20 minutes each day just jogging at a slow pace. The following week, pick up your pace by 1-2 minutes. On the third week, keep that increased pace and also add 5-7 minutes to each practice session. This method will help keep you motivated and prevent you from injuring yourself by going too fast too soon.
In addition to the running, it’s also important that you add cross training and strength training, into your weekly routine. Swimming, yoga, and lifting weights 2-3 times per week can all help build general fitness while you prepare for the 5K. Get stronger leg muscles by doing body weight squats, front to back lunges, and HIIT training sessions. This will break up the new overload pattern of locomotion and get your body out of the sagittal plane, which in turn will decrease muscles strains to your soleus and gastrocnemius.
Recovery & Refueling
For pre-workout nutrition, consume fast acting and easily digestible MCFAs, protein and/or high GI carbohydrates. Vegetables should make up the majority of your calorie intake regardless of your race; especially if the crux of this 5K is a weight loss journey.
Make sure to get a sufficient amount of daily protein as well: Shoot for 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Phenomenal sources of protein include lean meats, fish and grass fed beef.
Fact: The CLA in grass and beef along with increased levels of vitamin E will help in muscle repair/recovery.
When replenishing electrolytes, reach for coconut water and avoid the high fructose corn syrup found in many leading sport beverages. Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day depending on how much you sweat and remember to recover with self myofascial release!
Before you begin your training, galvanize WHY you want this. That will be your go-to in times of withering motivation.
At the end of the day, running a 5K doesn’t have to be complicated. Set yourself up for early success and then let the running take care of itself!
Your First 5K checklist:
- Proper shoes
- The commitment towards proper sleep
- Training schedule
- Whole food nutrition (minus high fructose corn syrup)
- Water (filtered non-tap)
- Your WHY
Questions? Start here
About the author: Josh Trent, NASM-CES, CPT, HLC, is a corrective exercise specialist and participatory sports technology expert with over 9 years in the fitness industry. His passion is to accelerate wellness evolution through the power of the Digital Health and Quantified Self movements. You can follow him on Twitter @wellnessforce, or through his website www.wellnessforce.com.