Once you have decided to start running, committing to a goal is often the motivation you need to keep running. A lot of beginning runners chose the 5k race as their first real, achievable goal.
A 5k (5 kilometers) is just over 3 miles – 3.1 miles to be exact. If you are a fledgling runner, then you will want to give yourself at least 8 weeks to train for your first 5k. As you look through your local races look for something at two months in advance, preferable with a few weeks more for buffer time. You don’t want to feel the anxiety of a deadline bearing down on you while you are trying to set the stage for a healthy lifestyle.
Your first few weeks will have no more than 3 sessions of a combination of running and walking: 30 seconds of running, followed by 1 to 3 minutes of walking to catch your breath.
Your focus during these sessions will be more about your style than your endurance: when you run, be sure to pay attention to posture and pace. You want your head up, shoulders back and relaxed hands lightly closed (if at all) and elbows bent at 90-degree angles. Head bobbing should be kept to a minimum.
Take the talk test to make sure you aren’t running at too quick of a pace: if you can’t hold a conversation without gasping for breath, then you’re moving too fast for your body to keep up. Slow down. You are laying the foundation for a better life built through good habits. There’s plenty of time for speed later. Right now, it’s all about getting the body mechanics right and building endurance.
As you move into your third and fourth week, keep upping your running time by 1 minute each week, making sure to adjust your pace down if you feel uncomfortable. Remember to alternate running and walking – switching over to full running could prove to be injurious. Always keep in mind your breathing and your pace. While we are conditioned to thing that faster is better, this is not the case when you are a beginning runner.
Remember that slow and steady really does win the race. Work yourself harder every week so you gradually build up endurance. And, if you need some extra motivation, why not look for a 5K race in your area and sign yourself up?!