For many of you, fall/winter means it’s time to kick back, relax, and turn into a perpetual vegetable while you spend horrendously long hours in front of a screen watching Netflix and catching up on all of your favorite shows. As amazing as that sounds (I’m not even being sarcastic, that sounds divine), fall is a time for me to hop back on board the running bandwagon and train, train, train. Some of you may be seasoned 5K runners who need to dust off a few rusty muscles, and others may be preparing for their first 5K ever (DUN, DUN, DUN). Regardless of where you fall on the “running seniority” spectrum, here’s a few things to keep in mind before you hop on that trail.
- Always remember to start training at least 5-6 weeks in advance: How does one get good at running? By running. It’s quite simple, with little room for misinterpretation. There is no magical wand to wave, no special tricks. Make sure to start out by running a half a mile for a few days, before increasing your distance to a mile. By the second week, try to be up to a mile and a half, and continue to increase your distance by a half a mile every few days. The trick is to focus on building endurance during this time–don’t sweat the speed until week 4.
- Be sure to hit those hills: So, you’re in your fourth week of training and you’ve managed to run 3 miles without keeling over. Time to pick up the pace. Find a decently sized hill and set your timer. I like to pick hills that are a quarter of a mile long, but the exact distance doesn’t matter. Jog to the bottom of that hill, feast your eyes upon the challenge before you, and then sprint. Yes, sprint up the hill. Then jog back down. Sprint up again. Are you starting to understand? Do this for a solid 30-35 minutes, nonstop. At some point during this time period, you’ll want to hit the track and time your individual laps (400 meters). This period of time is about increasing speed, then meshing it with your newfound endurance for a killer–but effective–workout.
- STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH: It is baffling to me how people fail to stretch before and after (after is equally, if not MORE important) their runs. A stretch before a run prevents injury. A stretch after a run prevents lactic acid build up and muscle strains. I won’t harp on about it, all I can say is STRETCH. Every time you lace up those shoes before a run, and every time you’re dying to unlace them after a run, you better have a solid 10 minutes of stretching under your belt on both ends. Just trust me, for the love of all that is good. Trust me on this one thing.
- Stay Hydrated: What good is training if you’re unconscious from heat exhaustion or dehydration? This is not a joke or an exaggeration, both things have happened to me. Always keep a water bottle on you while running. If you hate carrying something on your run (like me), then make sure that you have a halfway point somewhere during your run where you can stop for water. This will prevent you from having sore muscles, it will reinvigorate you for the remainder of your run, and you won’t die (best part, right?).
- Get Some Pumped Up Kicks: Where would Cinderella be without her glass slippers? Nowhere. She’s a Queen, now, simply because of the right shoe choice. Much like Cindi, your shoes can make or break you. I tend to shy away from brands like Nike (GASP, AREN’T THEY SUPPOSED TO BE THE BEST?), Adidas and New Balance. These are more generic brands that have a “running” line simply to have it. I will always recommend Mizuno or Asics, because these brands are made for runners, by other runners. A good shoe store should be able to fit you with a semi-custom stability fit for your foot (and that makes a huge difference, believe me).
There you have it, folks. 5 easy tricks to make your first 5K a breeze. Now, lace up those new sneaks we talked about and go make me proud.