When you’re first getting started with running, it can be extremely tough. The breathing, the small pains, the muscle tightness and soreness, and most of all pushing yourself to the limit. Running is one of the most natural movements, so regardless of whether or not you are a runner, everyone can run…of course unless there is injury.
The first thing to do is to establish a starting point. If you are not used to any cardio, then simply start with brisk walking. When you feel comfortable work yourself up to a short and slow jog. I recommend getting a running watch that will track your distance, and speed at least. Start with 5 minutes, the next week work your way up to 8 minutes, then 12 minutes and so on. Increase slowly so that there is no injury or shin splints, which is common for new runners.
Incorporate cross training such as swimming, elliptical, biking, etc. to increase stamina and endurance without the wear and tear of running to begin with. As you increase your running time, you may decrease your cross training time.
Register for a 5k
Next, register for a 5k. This may seem like a no brainer, but some people will wait until the last minute to register and then back out because they do not feel ready. Chances are, you will never feel fully prepared and ready to race. If you register in advance, this will serve as motivation to train harder so that you are able to hit that deadline and meet your goal.
Back to Running
Once you have the jogging down, go for distance. If needed, start with a walk/jog. But, try to make the majority of the time spent jogging. Eventually, you should be able to work your way up to 30 minutes of solid running. Over time, you will be able to run faster miles, and more distance. If you can run a comfortable 5 miles, then I would say you have a pretty good chance of crushing it in your 5k!
Performing a couple days of strength training and resistance training is proven to increase speed and endurance, which will help you to run a faster 5k. Incorporating plyometrics such as jumping lunges or jumping squats in between sets will increase your heartrate so that you are not resting. And, an increased heartrate for an extended period of time is what we need in order to have better endurance. Using resistance bands such as the Fitccessory bands will take pressure off your joints, and will work muscles such as the hip flexors and glutes, which are used to propel you forward. Bands are also a great tool to warm up muscles before training.
It is crucial that you are incorporating rest days into your routine. Especially when starting out, do not run more than 2-3x in the week, depending on fitness level. Then you may choose to increase once you are more practiced. On those rest days, make it a habit to stretch, foam roll, drink plenty of water, and possibly take an ice bath or Epsom salt bath to recover and reduce soreness. When you are including interval training into your routine, recovery days may be greater.
Before a race
The week before a race, you want to taper down on intensity and make sure you are staying hydrated, loosened up, and ready to go! Typically, the night before a race some runners will choose to carb-load, however that is not as necessary especially if it is a shorter race like a 5k. I suggest to eat the foods that you usually would so that you do not have an upset stomach or feel heavy the next day.
Day of the Race
On the day of the race, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get some food in your system, hydrate, and warm up before the race begins. I suggest having a light breakfast with carbs and protein as they are faster digesting than fats would be. Any type of fruit, oatmeal, eggs, rice cakes, or granola bars would suffice. The reason to eat a little something is so that you have fuel for the race. You also want to make sure you have plenty of water before. However, do not have too much close to the race so that you do not cramp up. Make sure you get in a light jog beforehand (about 10 minutes or so), and perform a couple of drills such as high knees, butt kicks, or leg swings to get those muscles fired up!
When you begin, make sure you do not start out too fast. It is common to want to be at the front of the pack, but stay at a comfortable pace for the first mile. You can always speed up. If you can, try to find someone who is running close to your speed, but who is a little bit ahead of you and stick with them for the second mile and a half. When you have about half a mile remaining, pick up the pace. Really dig deep and push yourself. This is your chance to push it and pass people. The moment you can see the finish line, if it is 100-200m away, push it into full gear and sprint. Use any last bit of energy that you have for this last moment!
I hope this helps anyone who wants to become a better runner and anyone who is getting ready for their first 5k! Kill it!