Taking that first step into the running community is often somewhat overwhelming – There is soooooo much literature (websites, magazines, books, etc.) on how to train, prevent injury, increase your speed, increase your milage, when to stretch, what to eat…the list goes on. For someone who is interested in becoming more active, improving her/his fitness, or just excited to try something new, it’s easy to run back to the couch!
The Flavor Run Team has put together a basic, simple step-by-step process on how to start your fitness journey and complete your first 5K.
*Please note that we are NOT medical doctors and any specific health concerns should be addressed by a qualified professional. Click here for additional information on when you should receive medical clearance from your doctor before you engage in physical activity.
1. Be Safe.
Runners & walkers must be aware of their surroundings. Cars, bicyclists, mean dogs, potholes and the occasional “Bad Guy” are a few potential threats posed to runners. But these threats can be minimized easily by taking a few safety precautions:
- Work out with a friend, and let someone know where you are headed.
- Run/walk during the day and/or wear a light after sunset.
- Always run facing traffic. This makes it easier for cars to see you, and vise versa.
- If you are going to wear headphones, keep the volume low enough so that you can hear your surroundings.
- Bring your phone and form of ID with you in case of emergency.
- Obey traffic lights and signs (yes, this should be common sense, but important nonetheless!)
2. Select proper footwear.
There are so many running shoe options and it’s just a matter of finding the best fitting shoe for you. Many running stores have sales associates trained to help you select the perfect shoe. You can also read online shoe reviews to help you understand what features you may or may not be interested in. Here are a few resources to start with:
3. Select a running plan and stick with it.
Find a training plan that suits you and most importantly, follow the plan. Training plans are designed to prepare you for your race, while minimizing injury. If your plan says to “Run/Walk 2 miles at an easy pace”, DO NOT sprint 4 miles that day – Your body may not be ready!
Here are a few beginner training plans (if these don’t fit your goal or current fitness level look online or consult a professional for additional advice):
Also consider group training, offered by many local running groups and running stores. Group runs are great if you need some extra motivation! Plus, you’ll meet other runners and a lot of pretty cool new friends 🙂
4. Practice good running form and monitor your body for injury.
There are many running guides, professional athletes, and experts that teach a variety of approaches to proper running form. As a new runner, it is important to be aware that there are many successful approaches to proper running form and many also hold some common themes including keeping a short, quick stride or high cadence (number of steps per minute), mid-stride strike (not heel striking), and relaxed upper body. There is a ton of literature on proper running form:
5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Ok, you’ve heard it how many times?! Yes, it’s important to stay hydrated. Dehydration = Bad News. Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah… It’s common sense that hydration is SUPER important in hot weather. But just because our days are getting a little cooler now that winter is coming, staying hydrated is still important and can improve your workout performance.
What happens when you get dehydrated?
“When you sweat, your blood volume decreases, so less blood returns to your heart. As a result, the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat decreases, consequently less oxygen-rich blood reaches your working muscles. Your rate of aerobic energy production decreases, and you must run at a slower pace.” – Pete Pfitzinger, 1 June 2001; http://www.runnersworld.com/drinks-hydration/defeating-dehydration
There is a lot of new research out about hydration, when to hydrate, how much, etc. For long-distance runners and professional athletes, these studies and the ongoing debate on hydration is very important. However, for those of us who run/walk and strive to increase our fitness level recreationally, we can focus on keeping some basic habits:
- Carry a water bottle to work and drink when you feel thirsty.
- Aim to drink at least 60 oz of water a day (spread out through the day).
- Hydrate before and after your workouts, and when you feel thirst.
- Hydrate with water and/or sports drinks. While sports drinks are absorbed into your body faster (due to osmolality) and provide helpful nutrients, many contain high amounts of processed sugar.
6. Fuel your body.
It’s simple math: the more exercise you do, the more calories you burn! This is why running/walking is a great option for weight loss. But even if you are looking to drop some pounds, it’s still important to fuel your body for your next workout. Select your foods wisely to ensure you are eating the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, and even fats! Check out the links below for some helpful hints:
7. Allow your body to recover.
It’s important to take a break! It’s true, a day of rest can be just as beneficial for your body as a hard workout! Additionally, stretching and yoga are great ways to increase flexibility and prevent injury!
8. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Yes! This is supposed to be FUN!!!! No question, your first 5k will be challenging. But with that challenge will come a feeling of accomplishment and pride! Your endorphins will be flowing and you’ll have butterflies in your stomach – And, yea, you might be feeling a little bit of “Am I REALLY ready for this?!” along with all of the excitement…and that’s ok! YOU ROCK!