Starting on your running journey? Perhaps your new year resolution is to move more, and get fit? Well, what better motivation than signing up for a race, finding a plan and working towards it today! Whatever your long term running goal is getting a 5k under your belt is an ideal first target. Especially as you can find ParkRun’s all over the globe, that are free to enter and are hosted every week, perfect option to get you started.
So the route is sorted, you have your running shoes ready, now what are the other signs that you are ready to run your first 5k?
- You have a plan
- Covering the distance in training
- Healthy nutrition and hydration choices
- Listening to your body
- Mentally, your feeling ready
Getting your hands on a 5k plan would put you in good stead. Ou can find them for free online or usually inside running magazines. They are a slow, gradual buildup to the 5k distance, so don’t worry, they are not expecting you to be pulling out Personal bests or even able to run the whole distance. For a complete newbie, a 6-8 week plan, running 2-3 times a week would suffice for a 5k race, course or challenge.
If this is your first ever dabble in running, then consider a couch to 5k plan. It helps build up your cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance from a walk-run schedule, normally utilising interval and fartlek training at a sensible intensity. The plan will work your body – it’s a new stimulus that your body needs to get used to, but you will notice and benefit from the training effects fast, because it is a new stimulus, and challenging your body to work differently. Stick to it. Get into a rhythm and you’ll be smashing your run plan more than you ever thought possible, and signing up for a 10k next!
You’re much more likely to feel comfortable, confident and reassured on race day if you cover the race distance in training. (Whilst this isn’t normally done for marathon and ultra distances, as they take months to prepare for) but the key to any race IS the training you put in beforehand.
That being said, it is more than okay to cover the 5k distance at least once throughout your training weeks. It doesn’t have to be all in one go! You can do blocks of running and walking, a perfect option if you ask me. Over the weeks, the blocks of running will get longer, walking segments will get shorter, and before you know it, you’ll be ready.
Of course, once you can continuously run for 30 minutes, you know you are 5k ready!
Being in good health with help you keep consistent in training. If you want to make the finish line, in any event, then hydration and nutrition are just as key as the running itself. Without sufficient energy, you’re not running anywhere! Remember it’s better to get to the finish line 100 perfect healthy and 75% fit rather than 100% fit and 75% healthy.
Your food intake and hydration levels affect so much more than just your run performance. It impacts your sleep, your brain activity, alertness, energy levels, motivation, and how well you recover from injury. Hydration impacts major organs, your skin, circulation and such. Your health must always come before a run.
That being said, I know many people to get into running for weight loss, as part of a program for a healthy lifestyle, and that is wonderful! More power to you! But do make sure you’re not trying to run starved. Punishing your body to drop a pants size, is not healthy. If you’re unsure there are thorough nutrition guides to help fuel before, during and after your runs should you need a bit of guidance.
As a sports Injury professional, this is my biggest bugbear, (and yet my own biggest hurdle). You always think ‘oh I’m tired, really tired, but I have to do a run, so let’s get on with it’ or ‘My knee is hurting, ignore it and carry on’ – I know I’ve said both of those! However, ignoring your body and pushing through will only end in tears, pain and inevitable rest (that your body was begging you for). If you’re tired, it is OK to rest. In fact, there’s a reason WHY you’re body is calling for it… pain is a signal, you’re body is struggling and needs some help. So listen to it. Listen and adjust training accordingly (it’s okay if you don’t complete every single run on your plan).
If your muscles are sore – take a cold bath, stretch it out, foam roller, get a sports massage, see a doctor or swap an intense session for an easier, lighter effort, it’s okay to rest. Women, in particular, your monthly hormone cycle will dictate when you need to rest more, and when it’s time to push your effort.
This is a big one. ‘They’ say your mind gives up way before your body does (and I know that to be true), a little trust in your training will help you overcome the mental gremlins wanting you to stop – this is where running your distance before race day will help ease those nerves. A little self-belief goes a long way.
Some people I know struggle without music, some prefer podcasts for a mental distraction almost. Although, there are others (and sometimes myself) who prefer self-talk, and show a little compassion when my breathing gets erratic. Each to their own, so give them all a try, and what works for you. For me, knowing a friendly podcast chat is going on around me as I run the Forrest, is a little comforting and makes the time out on trails seem much shorter.
Ultimately, your gut feeling will indicate whether you’re ready to tackle a 5k, so trust it. When you feel the confidence to go for it, it means you almost certainly are!
So good luck, and let me know how it goes.