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Ready to run: Running your first 5K

Main Line Health Center in Concordville February 2, 2016 Wellness Articles

So, you’ve decided to run a 5K. Congratulations!

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a running rookie, a 5K race is an ideal fitness goal for beginners and the perfect starting point for anyone who might be interested in a long-distance running routine.

“A 5K is a great distance for beginner runners, but it can be adapted to meet anyone’s fitness needs,” says Bernard King, DO, family practice physician at Main Line HealthCare Family Medicine in Glenn Mills. “At every 5K, you’ll see participants who opt to walk it, or alternate between walking and running. It’s the opportunity for a no-pressure fitness challenge.”

Ready to run? We’ve got tips to get you to the starting line.

Suit up

In order to train comfortably and safely, you’ll need the right equipment. First, invest in a pair of running shoes. Although you won’t be running marathons (yet!), it’s important to find the right pair of sneakers to support your feet during a race. Find a specialty running store in your area, where the staff is trained to help you find the right pair of shoes for your feet, goals, and speed. While you’re there, select a pair of moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry from and protect them from blisters.

When deciding what to wear for your training or race, find something you’re comfortable in and stick to it. Whether that’s running shorts and an old t-shirt or top-shelf athletic gear, find something you feel confident and comfortable in.

Pick a 5K program

There’s no shortage of options for a 5K training program but, before you choose one, make sure you receive medical clearance from your physician.

“Although running a 5K is typically safe, it’s important to get approval for your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine to make sure you’re physically prepared and not at risk for injury,” says Dr. King.

Once you’ve been medically cleared, you can find training programs online, including the popular Couch to 5K Program. Look for a training program with a timeline of anywhere from five to 10 weeks. If a pre-set training program is too regimented, you can also try your own routine.

For example, walkers might start by alternating jogging for two minutes and walking for five minutes until they’ve completed a 20-minute workout. Repeat this routine three to four times per week, and gradually increase your running segments until you’re running for a full 20-30 minutes. Try not to increase your time or mileage by more than 10 percent each week. You can vary your distance and pace to keep things interesting, but it’s important to listen to your body.

“Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, so slow down if running becomes painful,” says Dr. King.

Regardless of what training program you choose, look for one that builds gradually over time. Running too fast too soon can increase your risk of injury.

On race day

You’ve made it to race day! On the morning of your race, choose an outfit and sneakers that you’ve trained in before to make sure it’s nothing your body is unfamiliar with.

And, when the big day finally arrives, don’t race on an empty stomach.

“Try a light carbohydrate snack 90 minutes before the start time, like a banana with peanut butter or an energy bar. Snacks like these will help you stay energized through your race without giving you an empty stomach,” says Dr. King.

Just as important as having a light snack? Staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water before and during the race to prevent dehydration.

Finally, remember to focus on having fun and making it to the finish line injury-free. The goal of your first 5K should be finishing and enjoying your time!

Ready to kick off your training? Visit our website to make an appointment with a Main Line Health physician or to set up a complete exercise routine with a Main Line Health physical therapist.