A gradual and progressive Evolution to long term Fitness
10 tips to run a 5K
by Darwin Fitness running coach
Jean-Sebastien FABRE, IFPA CPT
The 5K is the most popular race distance. It is a distance that will challenge you yet short enough that anyone can complete.
The 5K is one of my favorite running distances, it's a short enough distance that anyone can run but, at the same time, its speed gives even well-seasoned runners a great challenge.
Running a 5K race can be more than just a run; it can be very fun and enjoyable when you take the time to prepare yourself for it. Here are 10 useful tips to get you prepared for your first 5K race and to help you achieve your goals in the process so that you cross the finish line with a smile on your face while having a fun and injury-free 5K race.
5K Running Tip #1: Find and Register for a 5K
Choose a 5K race that is approximately 6 weeks to 8 weeks from now and register for it in advance. It's curious how such a simple task can at times be one of the most daunting of running your first 5K. Committing to a 5K race in advance will give you motivation to train and sets an expectation that you can plan for the race accordingly. The easiest way to locate a 5K race in your area is to check our race directory http://www.darwin-fitness.com/running-events-in-central-florida.html
Most events provide significant discounts to people who register online and well in advance. There is some trade-off with registering too early but registering is usually a good idea. Most events allow for same day registration.
5K Running Tip #2: Set an Appropriate Goal
A 5K, approximately 3.1 miles, can be completed in less than 20 minutes by runners like myself and could take as much as an hour for walkers. With such a wide range of abilities, it's important to keep in mind that you are only competing against yourself, your goal is to do the best you can while avoiding injury, improving your health, losing weight and, most importantly, having fun. It does not help anyone, especially you, if you're not enjoying your preparation for your 5K. Setting an appropriate goal is key to having a fun filled 5K race.
5K Running Tip #3: Train to the distance
Even though your 5K race maybe be 6 or maybe even 8 weeks away, start training for it now. There are very elaborate 5K training programs, but a simple one often works best. Devise a training program that includes at least three days of exercise per week with one day of rest in between workouts is a good idea to start with.
You want to make sure that you have plenty of workouts which actually mimic the real thing of your 5K race. If your 5K race has some hills, then you want to incorporate some hills in your training. If your 5K race has some trails in it then you want to incorporate some trail running in your training.
5K Running Tip #4: Vary Your Training Intensity
Training with high intensity every day often leads to injury while, on the other hand, training with low intensity everyday is also not good and leads to under performing and frustration. A good training program is one which varies the intensity of the workouts. Some days you want to train with high intensity and shorter distances and other days you want to train with a lower intensity and longer distance. A good Personal Trainer will help you to design the right program for you, and most important, will supervise and implement the plan. Training should include strength and power components (see next tip).
5K Running Tip #5: Strength Training
Weight lifting two or three times per week is a good way to improve your 5K performance. Not only will it strengthen your muscles, ligaments and tendons to help prevent injury, it will make the leg muscles less prone to fatigue during your 5K race.
5K Running Tip #6: Warm-up & Stretch
A proper warm-up before exercise increases blood flow to your muscles resulting in decreased muscle stiffness which makes you less prone to injury and improves your performance. Before your 5K training and 5K race, you should always warm-up with an easy five/ten minute jog. Your run has to be followed by stretching. Stretching is an important part of running as it improves flexibility and flexibility is an important component of running and exercise.
For running a 5K race, you should focus on the hip and leg stretches.
5K Running Tip #7: Listen to Your Body
If you experience any sharp pain, weakness or light-headedness during your 5K training or 5K race, stop and pay attention to it. It’s your body signaling that something is wrong. Pushing through acute pain is the fastest way to develop severe or chronic injury. If you don't feel well, you should take some time off until your body heals.
5K Running Tip #8: Eat Right
Make sure you eat a simple healthy breakfast about three hours before your 5K race, don't skip it. Some good choices are a bagel, a banana, an orange or a peanut butter sandwich, something that will not sit heavy in your stomach. Don’t experiment with food or drink on the day of your 5K race. It's wise to leave that experimenting for other days.
Dinner the night before your 5K race shouldn't include anything too greasy; pasta is always a good choice among runners.
5K Running Tip #9: Know your shoes
Many athletes, as well as I, race in different shoes than the ones they train on. That’s fine, but what is important is that you have run in your racing shoes before and are comfortable in them. Race day is not a good time to try out a new pair of shoes you have never ran in before.
The shoe may feel fine when you put it on in the store but after a few miles it may not feel so well. So make sure you do some of your 5K training in the shoes that you plan to use in your 5K race.
5K Running Tip #10: Avoid Pre-Race Jitters
Pre-race jitters are normal, so try not to misinterpret them or think it is fear or question whether you’re ready for your first 5K race. The jitters happen even to well-seasoned runners. I myself have run several dozen races and still find that I get the pre-race jitters. It’s just the adrenaline rush you feeling, it’s normal and its part of your body's natural preparation for your 5K race.
To help avoid the nervousness before your 5K race, here are some tips I like to follow:
Make sure you get a good night’s rest, but wake up early enough so that you are not rushed.
Have everything you need ready the night before your 5K race such as your shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, sweat shirt and even breakfast.
Arrive early and warm-up. I usually like to arrive about an hour before the start of the race to give myself time to find a parking spot, go over the start and finish of the race, warm-up and stretch. It is much better to stand around for a few extra minutes at the starting line than to be rushing because you are afraid you will miss the start or be late to the start.
Dress appropriately for the weather and in layers. On really cold days, I like to run in a long sleeve shirt and wear gloves.
If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts before or during your 5K race, try to focus only on your breathing and race like you don't care about the outcome. Remember the number one goal is to only compete against yourself so enjoy the moment.
Pick up your packet and bib the day before your 5K race. Even if the race allows same day packet pickup it is always best to pick it up the day before. You will be less stressed on race day and you can leave the house with your race bib already pinned to your shirt, one less thing to worry about.
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