We all can run, but many folks haven’t reached more than a shopping mall stride since high school. For those contemplating their first 5K or 10K race, or even those wanting to take their fitness walking to the next level, here are some important tips to keep in mind.
1. Running Creates Impact
You will awaken muscles, joints, bones and arteries, that have been under-utilized for years. Your knees, quads, glutes and especially achilles, may be sore and tight during and after run workouts. When I first started running at the age of 25, it was after three years of law school and four years of college with very little athletic activity. I suffered for months through a bout of “shin splints”, then painful achilles and soleus (muscle that stretches from behind knee to back of ankle) conditions, then a sore knee. I assumed that I simply had “bad knees” and certain biological conditions that prevented me from running pain-free. Wrong! Fortunately, I toughed it out and after nine months or so of regular running, all of my problems disappeared. It just takes time for these parts of your body to become conditioned to running. This “leg-building” period is one of the reasons why #2 below is VERY important.
2. Be a Tortoise Not a Hare
Your running fast days will come sooner if you ease into a regular running regimen. Like good-tasting barbecue, your legs and cardio system need to marinate for a while in this more active lifestyle before they become prize winners. Schedule your run workouts every third day during your first month of training. Then, go every other day for the next month. Then, do 2 days on and 1 day off for another month and before you know it, you’re on your way.
3. Keep it Simple
When starting to run, avoid getting lost in the details of specific training workouts, intervals, etc. Just lace up the shoes and go. Your pace should be relaxed, easy and conversational for the first month because, again, this initial period is more for your legs than your heart. Don’t even worry about distance—run according to time. For your first run, try to hold a steady pace for 10 minutes. If you have trouble, go as long as you can and then walk fast the rest of the time. Next time, try 11 minutes, then 12, etc. By the end of your first month you should be doing around 20 minutes and ready for the every-other-day workouts.
4. No Water or Nutrition Needed
Hydration is important, but lately I think many have taken it too far. You don’t need a hydration belt in 5K and 10K races—your body does not need fluid replenishment during workouts less than 30 minutes. And, unless it is ridiculously hot and humid, your body will not need replenishment for workouts lasting an hour. Drink immediately after training or racing and, in most cases, you will be fine.
5. Pick a Flat and Friendly Race
Set yourself up for the best race experience possible by making smart pre-race decisions about your first competition. Find a race with a relatively flat course. Avoid a race that is scheduled in the hottest months—July and August. If possible, choose a race that a friend or relative can also run and share the experience with you. Doing so will help maximize the race day fun and provide motivation during training.
6. Run During Travel
One of the great characteristics of running is its ease of participation. With a pair of running shoes, you can head out virtually anywhere. Exploring neighborhoods during business and leisure travel is an added perk. EVEN Hotels encourages getting outdoors with offerings such as its custom jog/walk maps. Try them out, or ask your hotel concierge where they’d recommend running. You’ll see the city and have the chance to get in a great workout.