Primitive man ran to catch food. He ran to escape predators. He ran to find shelter from the storm. Running has always been an essential life skill for humans. It’s one of mankind’s most basic instincts. Yet somehow, over time, humans have lost their urge to run.
It’s never too late to recapture the power of running. Whether you’re middle-aged or over the hill, you can learn to love a morning jog in the park.
Most novice runners start with a goal of running a 5K, or five kilometers, race. That translates into 3.1 miles. As you get out of your chair and out on the road, here are five steps to make your running program a success.
5K Race Step 1: Check Your Health
An average person of reasonable health can begin a 5K running program without concern. But just to be safe, have your doctor give you a full physical.
While you may picture runners as being young and lean, the reality is that runners come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. With running age isn’t normally an issue. If you can still walk, chances are you can run.
For athletes who suffer from sore knees or ankles, a wrap, brace or compression support may be needed. If you are overweight, don’t worry. Running is one of the best ways to drop those extra pounds.
5K Race Step 2: Get In the Gear
Unlike many sports, a runner doesn’t have to spend a lot of money. Your biggest investment will be a pair of high-quality running shoes which range in price from $50 to $200.
Skip the mall and the big box stores. Instead, plan to purchase your first pair of running shoes at a shop that specializes in running or fitness. Ask the salesperson to fit the right shoe for you. Forget fashion, concentrate on finding shoes that aren’t too snug or you may end up with blisters.
When it’s time to select socks, cut the cotton. It retains moisture and makes your feet feel sweaty and swollen. Look for a moisture repellent blend of spandex, nylon, and polyester. Unlike shoes, your socks should fit snug.
The remainder of your ensemble should be made up of lightweight, comfortable wicking fabrics that are designed to draw moisture away from the body. Just like your socks, avoid cotton as it tends to absorb your sweat.
5K Race Step 3: Find a Partner
Accountability is the key to a successful running program. Pick a partner in pain and commit to mutual accountability. Plan to meet and run together at least three times a week.
If you don’t have a running partner, they’re easier to find than you think. Ask around at the office. Go online and look up local running clubs. Head to the gym and see who’s using the treadmill. Or badger a buddy into joining your quest. Don’t worry if your partner is better than you. That means he has lots of advice to offer.
5K Race Step 4: Start Slow
In the beginning, you’ll need to find a one-mile course, such as through a park or around a school. Remember, you’re not going to run a six-minute mile your first day on the trail. In fact, on the first day, you should walk the route.
Day two is when the real fun begins. Start with a brisk walk for five minutes. Then run for five minutes. Then walk for ten. Alternate running for five and walking for ten until you’ve finished the course.
Don’t be discouraged if you feel out of breath and tired. Remember, you are a novice. Over time and with training, you’ll start to increase your endurance. If you feel you need to stop for a short break, don’t feel guilty. Catch your breath and then get back to work.
Don’t worry about speed. Concentrate on the total time you spend running. Over the next month, you will want to increase the amount of time you run and decrease the amount of time you walk. At the end of thirty days, you should be able to run a full mile without stopping.
Once you hit the mile mark, start adding distance. You can use your same route but plan to do it twice. Run the first mile and, using the run/walk method, add in the second mile. Then do the same to add the third.
5K Race Step 5: Set a Date
Nothing motivates better than a deadline. Find a 5 K race in your area, pay the entry fee and commit to being there the morning of the race. Mark it on your calendar. Circle it in red pen. Tell your friends and family about your plans. Having a set goal on a set date will help you maintain your running program and your commitment to the process.
On the day of the race, don’t worry about where you finish. Make it your objective to show up, to run and to pat yourself on the back as you do. After you cross the finish line, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself. Then find another race to run and set a new goal and start the process all over again.
Running a 5K race doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the right gear, some friendly support and a little training, you can go from novice to natural in no time at all.