5K’s are all the rage. Like seriously, have you noticed the surge in popularity in recent years? The racing market has begun to branch out to the beginner runner, so these uber-cool 5K’s now have themes. Run a 5K and you can have chocolate! Donuts! Beer! Color thrown in your face! Doesn’t that sound like FUN?!?!?! Okay, so I get it – you’re in, with one single problem. You’re not a runner. So here you are, looking for some advice on how to get trained and geared up for one of these 5K shenanigans. Here is a guide on how to train for a 5K.
Unlike most of the other training websites, I’ll have you know that your expertise is coming from an amateur. I’m not a “runner” – At least, I certainly didn’t grow up as one! Tee-ball? I was the kid who always got tagged out before first (my dad was the coach). Middle school field day? I was the kid who couldn’t run an entire lap around the track. High school and beyond? <insert maniac laughter> Of course, as an adult, I was obese. Everyone knows that an obese woman cannot run! I’m not saying that to be a true statement, but for me and my life, it was true for much of my adulthood. I tried the Couch to 5K program before, but never could get past week 3.
In 2013, that took a change when I determined myself to get through the ENTIRE program – and I did it! The pic above is me completing my first 5K! Me, obese me (back then) ran and completed that 5k (through some woods and hills – it was a tougher course than I expected). I used to always tell myself that I was too fat to run. I’ve learned that sometimes I tell myself a lot of things that just aren’t true.
This week, after hibernating in the gym and with at-home workout programs, I am hitting the outdoor pavement and starting the program again.
Before I get started, let me throw out a medical disclaimer. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t give you medical advice. Your doctor should be the one that clears you medically to run. If you have problems with knee injuries, foot injuries, etc, then running with those injuries could produce further damage. Further damage is…well, not fun. Always listen to your body (however, see below my notes on mind games!)
If you’re a first-time runner, here are my tips and tools for success:
Set a Schedule
The Couch to 5K program is an 8 week program, designed to train you three times a week for approximately 30 minutes. I spaced mine out to every other day, to help rest my body and mind for the next round. If you’re doing other workouts (like the gym, 21 Day Fix, or PiYo), then find a schedule to help fill in the other days. Working out the other days will help to strengthen your body as you work to build endurance on running days.
Here are some things you should think about adding to your running gear. Of course, they’re not required (except good shoes. That’s like #1), but may be helpful in your journey. As a note, links provided are affiliate links. I was not paid to recommend these products, however purchasing through these links help to keep this blog running – just like you’re going to be! (You see what I did there… lol)
- Couch to 5K App. C25K by Zen Labs (iOS) is my favorite, and it is free. I like it because you can use other music in the background (I have Rhapsody), and there are distinct audible cues to tell you when to run and when to walk.
- A good playlist. I love running to a good playlist. Find some peppy, upbeat songs that are your jam. Make them fun to run to!
- Good shoes. Your sneakers that you’ve worn for the last 5 years will do you more harm than good. If it’s been awhile since you’ve bought new sneakers, it may be time to make an investment (your feet will thank you!). If you’re unsure of fit, I’d recommend going to a fitness shoe store (such as Finish Line), and have a salesperson fit you with the right shoe and the right size. Also, if you do get new shoes, I’d recommend wearing them for several days before starting your running program to make sure they fit well.
- An armband for your phone. Running with a phone in your hand is such a drag. Find an armband to hold your phone (and maybe a key if you’re running outside). Here is one that fits most newer smartphones (and works on larger arms!): (Amazon) EVOLV GEAR Sports Armband for iPhone 6 / 6S & Samsung Galaxy S5 / S6 / S7
- Earbuds. The one thing that annoyed me the most when I was running outside was the cord to my earbuds flapping around and getting in the way when I ran. Fortunately, technology has stepped up the game with bluetooth earbuds, giving you cordless freedom when you run:
Doing the Program:
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to hit the pavement, so to speak. If you’re completely new to the running game, or if you’ve tried and failed, I have some words of advice for you.
- Before you run, STRETCH. Stretching and warming up your muscles will help to prevent injury. Injuries are bad and will only sideline you. Don’t step this step!
- Good posture. A good posture will help you a lot in the end, and help keep your body efficient. An efficient running body will not only make running EASIER due to less exertion, but can also prevent injuries. There are several articles out there to help you perfect this art, but to summarize it, here’s the basic scope:
- Stand up straight when you run. Don’t lean forward.
- Relax your hands and body. Your fists/arms/etc should NOT be clenched, and instead be in a relaxed position.
- Running has a lot of mind games involved. The first several times I tried Couch to 5K, I always always always gave up by week three. I told myself that my body was not built to run for any longer. When I was finally successful at completing the program, I realized that the biggest thing that was holding me back was my own mind. Spend your time eliminating any and every negative self-talk. Tell yourself you can and WILL do this before you even start warming up.
- Grab some accountability. Or a buddy. Check in on Facebook or something! Whether you are doing the journey alone, or doing it alongside friends, I’d like to encourage you to SHARE your journey! Sharing your journey will a) make it real and b) keep you accountable. Find a way to share your journey (you can even post your progress from your phone saying you completed!). If you need help, join my group on Facebook. We’re on all shades of healthy, but we support each other and celebrate our health victories! Please come join us HERE and tell us where you are in your journey!
- Slow down there, buddy! You’re not running a race. Figure out a speed that is comfortable for YOU, even if it’s slow as snails in the wintertime in Alaska. (No judgement from me – I embrace my snail’s pace!). If you are running with a partner and you’re struggling to keep up, then speak up before you faceplant into the cement! Your partner can either choose to a) slow their pace or b) run ahead and cheer for you at the end. 🙂
- Extra Credit! It’s good to be a teacher’s pet in these situations! When you reach your final jogging sprint for your workout, see how long you can run. Whether it’s an extra 5 seconds or 2 minutes, challenge yourself! You’re working on creating endurance, and pushing yourself will not only help increase that endurance, but it will also give you a boost of confidence in going above and beyond! (Plus, it will help prepare you for the next workout)