You’ve done it. You are committed. Your race entry has been confirmed. You have your new pair of running shoes and you’re ready to sport your entire lululemon ensemble on the running trail. But what you really need to know is where do you begin when you are a beginner runner and you are training for your first 5K. Well, here are my Top 5 things to do when you are looking to get fit for that first race. With some preparation and a logical approach, you will be fast on your way to that starting line. So here goes.
My top tip for running your first race by far is...
- Train steady and slow — The build up is key. You are new to running so you need to take time to acclimate to the sport and give your body time to adapt to its new training. My rule of thumb is to allow yourself 12 weeks to train for your first 5K. There are a lot of great resources to help you with your journey. Try joining a local track club or visit a local running store for information on training groups. Make sure they know you are a beginner. Ideally, your running at first should consist of both running and walking and be sure to lace up those shoes 3-4 days a week.
- Meet but don’t compete — I highly encourage that you join a running club or group in the initial stages of your running. You can ask the coach a lot of questions and get great information from more experienced runners. Plus, it's a great way to meet training buddies. Take note though, my big rule here is: “Meet but DON’T compete.” You are there to meet new people and learn about running. You are not there to compete. Be careful not to be pulled into how much someone else is running or how fast. No comparisons. Remember, this is about your goals and there is only one of you so respect where you are in your fitness and know that eventually, with some steady training, you will be running with the pack.
- Hydration and nutrition are key — If you forget these two elements, your training is for not. Yep, I know you have heard this a thousand times over, but keeping properly hydrated and following a healthy, balanced diet, are critical components to keeping you healthy while you train. A healthy body can train and tow the line. An injured body usually stays at home and tries to rationalize that the potato portion in the chocolate covered potato chip counts as one of the five fruit and vegetable servings per day. Open that bag of decadent treats at the end of your first race to celebrate, not while you are depressed on the couch, nursing an achilles strain. So, you ask, how do you hydrate? Make sure to consume enough electrolytes to power yourself through your training. In terms of nutrition, keep it simple and real. That means, reduce sugar and high fat foods. Replace the white flour with nutrient-rich grains such as brown rice, quinoa and amaranth. Keep the gluten to a minimum to help reduce inflammation. Make sure your diet contains lots of veggies and a moderate amount of fruit. Buy local and organic whenever possible to make sure the nutrient yield of the food you are consuming is as rich as can be. Protein should be lean and be about 35% of your total caloric intake. Basically that means, about a third of your plate should be protein. Ummm, and no it doesn’t count if two-thirds of your plate includes an apple pie and the remaining section is a grilled chicken breast.
Don’t be intimidated — This is meant to be fun and empowering. I know whenever you are learning something new it can be overwhelming and a bit intimidating. All those pro-looking runners at the Monday evening run, clad in the latest “minima” shoes and wrists adorned with GPS units galore, yes even they were beginners at some point and had to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It's the only way you learn.
Give yourself some credit — A lot of people forget to stop and tell themselves “good job” when they are picking up something new. Whether it's a new job, relationship or skill, we tend to be overly critical instead of supportive of ourselves. Realize you're doing this because you want to live a healthy life. Yes, this is a lifestyle choice, so be happy that you are giving yourself that gift. The rewards will flow over into all aspects of your life. I guarantee it.
Good luck with your first 5K and look for my next blog in this series for beginner runners.