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Preparing for Your First 5K

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Running season is upon us! I have always loved running – it’s a therapeutic exercise that allows runners to be alone with their thoughts and focus on what’s important while getting fit. It is what I crave before or after a long day. It’s what I do when I have energy to burn and when I need to recharge. Running is not only a simple human movement, it is a mindful movement that makes you feel good. They don’t call it a ‘runner’s high’ for nothing. That being said, I know not everyone feels the same as I do. Some people even claim to hate running. However, in my experience, those who have a strong dislike for running often feel that way because they aren’t setting themselves up for success with the proper training, gear and attitude. There are so many great benefits of running and it can become a healthy lifestyle addiction. It’s an inexpensive and adaptable sport that will help you get fit anytime and anywhere. Trust me when I say, if you can walk, you can run.

For those who are considering taking up running this season, my first piece of advice to you is to consider signing up for a learn to run program. Join a social run club, or ask someone with experience and expertise for advice. I also suggest signing up for an event so you have a focus and end goal that will keep you on track with your running. The side effects of training for a running event is that you will most likely clean up your eating and your sleeping habits and rid yourself of some bad habits too. Many races, whether they are your local community 5 or 10 km road race for charity or a big city half or full marathon, offer you a variety of race options so people of all experience levels can partake. The best way to crack the running code is to start out with a walk/run approach with the goal to run a 5 km road race. This training approach and distance is achievable for virtually anyone who has the desire.

Once you’ve signed up for your event and found a buddy or club to run with, here are my top tips for training for your first 5K:

  1. Eat a healthy snack: 30-60 minutes prior to going for a run, eat a healthy but light snack that includes a complex carb. Half a bagel and half a piece of fruit with a small amount of protein, like a spoon full of peanut butter, is a great option and will keep your energy up on your run.
  2. Ensure you wear proper footwear: It’s so important to have good foot wear when you run because it can make the world of difference. Gear up with a proper pair of running shoes by going to a footwear store that specializes in shoes for runners. You can get a free assessment and walk out of there with the perfect pair for running.
  3. Ensure you wear proper gear: Similar to shoes, having the proper attire is equally as important. You have to remember to dress for the season, so during the summer go for something that wicks sweat away. For colder seasons try layering. Don’t forget sun protection like a good pair of sunglasses or a hat.
  4. Start slowly: Do you know the saying ‘slow and steady wins the race’? It’s true! Go slow, pace yourself, trust your speed and build up distance gradually. If you’re new to running start with the walk/run training method, where you walk for a minute followed by running for a minute – or whatever duration works best for you. Keep both your run and your walk at even paces at first as this is a efficient strategy. The most common error (whether you are new to running or haven’t been running for a season or two) is to going out too fast and adding miles onto your distance too quickly. Start with 10-15 minutes and build up to 30-45 minutes and this will give you ready for a 5 km within 4-5 weeks. As your fitness and running technique improves, you will be able to run consistently for longer periods of time and eventually you may choose not to walk at all.
  5. Cross Train: Cross training is training in two or more sports or fitness activities in order to improve and enhance your overall performance. Instead of going for a run every day, mix up your routine so that you are running three days a week with time on alternative days to strength train, stretch and recover. Yoga and hot yoga in particular are one of my favourite cross-training activities. The heat helps my body learn how to tolerate sweating and warmer temperatures and strengthen and mobilize the muscles that need to be strong and stable for running. People who cross train are the runners that are able to enjoy running the longest and are less prone to injury. Be sure to run outdoors on surface areas and terrain that is going to be similar to the environment you will run on race day. Study the route for your 5 km and if possible, train on the exact route to help your mind and your body prepare for race day.
  6. Mix up your runs: Don’t always run the same route, don’t always run the same distance; to put it simply, change it up. Variety is key. Try running on different surfaces, whether it be pavement, treadmills, grass or somewhere off the beaten path, you will notice the difference and this small change will help make you a better runner who never loses the joy of the sport.
  7. Connect with a cause: If you run for something with a charitable cause you are more likely to succeed because it gives you a purpose outside of yourself. Given all of the charitable events out there today, chances are if you believe in making a difference with a particular cause, there’s a run associated with it.

So please, try out these tips and get started on the path to enjoying that beautiful runner’s high. Whether you are running for a cause, to improve your fitness, or to change up your training mode, give running a try…with an open heart. A word of warning—running can be highly addicted. I ran in my teenage years to clear my head and manage my high energy level and I’ve been running since.


Written by:
Maureen (Mo) Hagan
canfitpro's VP of Program Innovation and Fitness Development

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