If you’re looking for motivation to get off the couch, running a 5K is a great fitness goal to work toward. Don’t be intimidated by the number. At a distance of just over three miles, a good training program can have you crossing the finish line of your first 5K in just a few months.
WHERE TO START
There are plenty of benefits to running for exercise. It’s been proven to improve both your physical and mental health. And because you can run nearly anywhere, it’s an activity that’s accessible to anyone.
But you should first talk to your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough to start training. Once you’re cleared to begin, it’s time to set your goal and get to work!
WHAT TO EXPECT
The biggest rookie mistake many aspiring runners make is trying to do too much, too fast. This can lead to an injury, which will set you back from achieving your goal. So don’t overdo it during your first few workouts. Instead, follow a 5K training plan.
Most programs give you about 8-12 weeks of training leading up to the race, which helps you steadily build stamina. You can start with an online training plan, like this series of 5K training programs from Runners World. Some are more aggressive than others, so be sure to choose one that’s a good fit for your level of fitness and running experience.
Once you pick a plan, your training will include a combination of walking, running and rest. Here’s a look at what you can expect:
- Walking: Most programs recommend that you run and walk in the same workout. For the first few weeks, you’ll walk more than you run. But as time goes on, you’ll get stronger and start walking less.
- Running: If you’ve never exercised much, this will be the most intimidating part of the program. The important thing to remember is you should run at a pace that’s comfortable for you, even if it’s a casual jog. Remember, the ultimate goal of your 5K is to cover the distance — not to set a record-breaking time.
- Rest: When you’re training, putting your feet up can be just as important working out. Giving your muscles time to recover will build your strength and help prevent injuries. Training programs often have rest days built in, so you’ll have something to look forward to after a hard day of running.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Any time you start a new workout program, it’s important to listen to your body. Factors like uneven terrain, bad form and overtraining can all cause running injuries. Wearing the wrong type of running shoes can cause injuries, too.
Follow your trainer or doctor’s advice to treat any specific conditions you’re experiencing. For general information, the Cleveland Clinic offers these tips to prevent running injuries.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to rest, check your gear or see a doctor:
- Joint pain: Pounding your feet on the pavement can do a number on your joints, particularly your knees and ankles. Arthritis and other chronic pain can also get inflamed with exercise. Be sure that you are icing and getting proper rest if you start to experience joint pain.
- Persistent pain: It’s normal to experience some soreness after you start training. But if the pain doesn’t decrease after rest or begins as soon as you train again, there could be something wrong. If you have lasting discomfort or need pain medications to train, contact a doctor.
- Heart issues: Running is great for your cardiovascular health. But if you’re at risk, know how to spot the signs of serious trouble like a heart attack. If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath, put the workout on pause and get medical help right away.
This article was brought to you by our friends at Erie Insurance. Miller’s would like to extend its gratitude to Erie Insurance for both being a wonderful business ally and for letting us use the articles found on their blog, Eriesense.