Running a 5k can be great exercise in and of itself, but a proper preparation process is an excellent way to develop long-term exercise habits and protect yourself from injury. Here’s what to keep in mind if a 5k is in your future.
Mental blocks are common barriers to achieving fitness goals. The key is to anticipate those potential blocks and keep these perspectives in mind:
- It’s about the process not the distance: As you’re preparing, and even during the event itself, train yourself to think about the process of running—not the distance you have to cover. Don’t think about how many more miles or kilometers you have left, but rather how to do little chunks you can manage at a time.
- Set goals: Set smaller goals to work up to and build upon instead of setting a single goal to “be in shape” at the end of the tunnel.
- Reward yourself: When you’ve accomplished these goals, feel free to reward yourself—in a healthy way, of course.
- Self-evaluation is critical: At good benchmark points through your training, consider a self-evaluation to track your progress and assess your body. Don’t forget to assess pain or fatigue. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s time to take a break. You may also want to consult your doctor.
Stay motivated: Motivation can be tough at times during this process. The best way to combat this is identifying your trouble areas then taking steps to make them simpler—a good example is creating an easier morning process if you work out at this time but struggle waking up. Refer back to your list of goals and self-evaluation areas if needed.
Use these tips to prepare yourself physically for a 5k:
- Pick a date in advance: In general, it’s a good idea to shoot for a 5K date that’s a few months out so you have time to properly train your body. If you’re planning to walk the entire 5k, you may be able to aim for a sooner date.
- Start off slowly: For beginners or people who haven’t exercised much, increase your workload gradually. If you find yourself needing to regularly take breaks or are out of breath, slow down. If needed, incorporate a one-minute walk break after one to three minutes of running, depending on your conditioning level.
- Mix it up: Don’t focus on running alone. Protect your body from injury by cross-training, which can include other forms of exercise as well as walking or jogging. Look for incremental improvement in each area as you get closer to the race.
- Don’t overdo it to “catch up”: Some people mistakenly think that if they miss a two-mile run, they can run four miles the next day to make up for it—unfortunately, this can strain your muscles.
- Find support: Wherever possible, look for support in your training efforts. Whether this is a workout partner, an encouraging friend or co-worker, or a significant other who helps with scheduling or motivation, look for ways to involve others in supporting your efforts.
- Don’t forget to warm up and cool down: Warming up helps increase your body temperature and increase blood flow to your muscles, which helps prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness. It’s also important to cool down to gradually return your body to a resting state.
Your doctor can offer further recommendations on whether a 5K is right for you, and on proper training including warm-up and cool-down.
I treat people of all ages in my practice—kids, athletes, adults and retirees––and enjoy being able to understand people’s unique situations in order to help them recover.
“Sofa to 5K Training Tips.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/sofa-to-5k-training-tips#1
“Prevention of running injuries by warm-up, cool-down, and stretching exercises.” American Journal of Sports Medicine. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/036354659302100513