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Running Your First 5K

Running 5K

The first time you run a 5K (3.125 miles) can be a real high point on your quest for fitness. But unless you're an experienced runner, it's not something you just wake up and decide to do. Plan on three months of training to get you ready. Here's a schedule I use with some of my clients.

Start by having a conversation with your doctor and make sure a 5K is something you're cleared for. Some medical conditions will require special preparations or diets that only your health care provider is qualified to advise on.

With clearance in hand, choose a race that's at least three months away. It's preferable to select one close to home the first time because you're more likely to be comfortable with the altitude, temperature and humidity. Register right away, so you know you've got a spot.

Click Here for a list of fun 5 and 10K races!

The first four weeks, schedule a run three times each week, on alternating days. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are good, but so are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Whatever three days you choose, make sure you have a rest day between runs. (Remember, you're training for a race. You should be running, not jogging.)

Get the right gear. Choose clothing that's loose without any seams or sharp pieces that might poke you. Get a good pair of running shoes. Most importantly, get a partner if you can. Having someone else encourage you to show up is a huge incentive. If you can't or don't want to run with someone else, consider a small music player. The first few minutes of a run can be exhilarating, but after that, it might be tough to finish without some motivational music.

If you're not going out first thing in the morning, eat a small meal (200-400 calories) at least an hour or two before your run. Within 30 minutes of finishing, eat again to help your body recover. Ideally, you want something higher in carbs to replenish the glycogen you burned off and higher in protein to build muscle. A banana and a low-fat protein shake after your run is an excellent combination.

Running Schedule

Running Schedule Chart 01Running Schedule Chart 02

Don't concentrate so much on how far you're going to run; focus on how long each run should take. On the first day of the week, a reasonable goal is 15 minutes. The next day shoot for 20 minutes. The final run of the week is your long run, so plan on 30 minutes that day. At least 2 of your off days, you should be doing some sort of strength training. A 30-minute whole body workout is reasonable. Repeat that schedule each week for the first four weeks.

If you're not able to run the entire time you're supposed to, try a run/walk program. That's where you run for 2 minutes, then walk for 1 minute until you finish your allotted training time.

In the next six weeks, you're going to bump it up a little. For your first run of the week, try to complete a full mile in 20 minutes. If you finish the mile in less time than that, keep running until you've spent your entire 20 minutes.

For the second run, try to finish 2 miles in 30 minutes. If you can't run the entire distance, practice run/walking. For your long run, set a goal of at least 2 miles in 40 minutes. By the end of these six weeks, you should be running the entire 3.125 miles on your long run days.

The final two weeks before the race are the big ones. Your first run of the week, see if you can cover 2 miles in 20 minutes. Your second run, try and finish the entire 5K. For your final two long runs, take 50 minutes and run further than the total race distance. By running further than 5K, you'll be able to start the race in complete confidence you can finish.

Be aware of your body. Sharp pains, light-headedness and dizziness should all be considered warning signs. Your body is telling you something is wrong. If you experience any of those, take a break until your body heals.

The day before the race, relax and don't workout or run. Your body should be recovering from the previous training sessions. Go to where the race is being held and familiarize yourself with the course. Avoid caffeine and go to bed early so you're well-rested the morning of the race.

On race day, it's normal to feel nervous. Relax and remember you're only competing against yourself. Arrive early, warm up your muscles and dress for the weather. Then get out there and enjoy your accomplishment!

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.