The Beginner’s Guide to Running a 5k

Dec. 10, 2018My whole life, I’ve been on the other side of the fence, watching runners in envious awe. To me, enjoying a run has always been like enjoying long division — it’s freakin’ weird.



This year, I decided I wasn’t going to become the writer whose butt fused with her desk chair amid protein bar wrappers and half empty water bottles. I chose a 5k, set a date, and started training.

What I’ve learned along the way has surprised even this yoga-loving cardio hater:

It really does get easier the more you do it

As it gets easier, you start to look forward to it (WEIRD)

My brain works better after a run

If you’re like me and you’ve never completed a mile-run straight through without a walk break in your LIFE, the thought of running a 5k can be, well, kinda daunting. It turns out though, this is the perfect way to challenge yourself to start running, to stick to it, and to fall in love with trying to achieve something with it.

What I Didn’t Expect to Love About Running

In my research and writing career, I’ve studied a lot about hormone disruption and its known causes. From phthalates in plastic to overconsumption of sugars, there are about a thousand reasons why so many people are experiencing undiagnosed hormone imbalances with symptoms ranging from unusual body hair to severe mood swings and insomnia.

Exercise can help to right some of the wrongs in our hormonal makeup. It gets things moving in addition to causing the release of happy hormones that comfort our body as we put it through hell in the final sprints.

What’s really amazing for me about running is the overwhelming sense of focus and clarity I get from it. It’s like going from a cold, slushy mush in your brain to a high-powered steam engine. I don’t snap at my kids, work flows easier, and I’m just overall happier.

From running.

Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.

Training for Your First 5k

If you’re like me and have a pretty cardio-light fitness routine, you need to give yourself at least eight weeks to train for your first 5k. It’s going to take time to build up the endurance needed to do more than just survive, and frantically training at the last minute will only stress you out.

Five kilometers is 3.1 miles, so set aside about 30 minutes per day for your interval training (which means that in the beginning you won’t necessarily be running for 30 minutes per day — SCORE).

Work a program that gradually builds up your running distances over time, running for a few minutes and walking for a few, and gradually expanding the differences between the two. Aim to run three to five times per week, and don’t sweat your speed — just get consistent, keep showing up and doing the work.

On your off days or after your run, do some strength training to reduce your risk of injury — yoga, pilates, weight lifting — whatever your poison. Hydrate, and build those muscles to give your bones and joints more support as you hit the pavement.

If you don’t trust yourself to monitor and gradually increase your intervals, the Couch to 5k app is a great way to track it and train yourself. It has built-in interval timers set on a nine week schedule that gradually increase in length.

As you get more comfortable with those longer sprints, start working on lengthening your stride and increasing your speed. Remember, the name of the game with your first 5k is going to be endurance, so aim for a speed that gets your heart pumping but still allows you to carry on a conversation.

I know, easier said than done. I promise, it definitely gets easier.

(Says the sweaty tomato-faced girl in leggings.)

The Key to a Good Stretch

Nothing ruins the fun of pursuing a tough goal quite like a pulled hamstring. Do yourself a favor: DON’T be in too much of a hurry to stretch before your run.

Experts these days are suggesting what’s called dynamic stretching instead of the traditional static stretching we’re all used to. All that means is moving while you stretch instead of just stretching and holding a position for 30-60 seconds.

Give yourself a solid ten minutes or so before you start your run to warm up your muscles, and you’ll reduce your risk of injury (and chances for an excuse to skip the race).

The Night Before

The night before your race, eat a balanced dinner and get a good night’s sleep. Don’t rock the boat with your cuisine — aim for things you know sit well with your digestive tract. Drink plenty of water, and aim for the golden eight hours of sleep.

Before you hit the hay, get everything together that you need for race day out and ready to roll:

  • Clothes and shoes
  • Water
  • Post-race fuel, like protein bars
  • Race packet (see if you can pick it up the day before the race)

Whatever you do, don’t break in a new pair of shoes on race day — stick with your tried and true to avoid blisters and foot fatigue.

Race Day

Aim to be at the race about 30-60 minutes before it actually starts to give yourself plenty of time to stretch, use the restroom, and mentally prepare.

Before you head out the door, assess the temperature and put on what you would wear if it were about 15 degrees warmer. Get your materials from the race check-in area, use the restroom (warning: lines are likely to be long), and spend some time stretching and taking it all in.

You’re doin’ this thing.

Remember to pace yourself with a comfortable beginning and a strong finish. You should aim to maintain a pace that you can talk during for most of the race, and then for the final mile, push with everything you’ve got over the finish line.

After Your First 5k

Plan for some post-race glory, and refuel with carbs and protein right away. Do some static stretching to cool down overworked muscles, and give them lots of love and water.

You did it. You ran, you conquered, and now you get to celebrate. Drink it in, no matter how much of it you ran or walked. Your first 5k is a mega accomplishment and only the start of what you can do next.

Are you planning to run your first 5k soon? Give us a shout out on social with hashtag #First5K and tag us in the post, @AvocadoGreenMagazine so we can cheer you on!

 

 

Destiny Hagest

By Destiny Hagest

 —  Destiny is a freelance writer with a background in sustainability and natural health. She lives in the mountains of central Montana with her husband and young son. When she's not writing or chasing her toddler, you can find her wandering the quiet wilderness in search of wild herbs and antler sheds.

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