So, you’ve decided to run your first 5K. You’ve signed up on a website for some 5K run somewhere or you’ve made the commitment to yourself to get healthier; either way, you’ve committed. Running your first 5K can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t consider yourself a runner, but it’s definitely not impossible. Follow these easy tips on running your first 5K so you know everything there is to know and feel ready for your race day.
1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
It should come as no surprise that if you haven’t been running, you most likely won’t be able to train to run a 5K over night. Though it’s easy to want to sign up for a race that is a week away as a spur of the moment decision, it probably isn’t in your best interest, especially if you’ve never ran a 5K before. Many people choose a 5K as a fitness goal for themselves and as inspiration to get them going to the gym. If you haven’t been running at all, I would suggest getting a race date anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks away to allow yourself plenty of time to train and build your cardio. It may seem like a long time but by giving yourself extra time to train, you are preventing injuries and allowing yourself to become more confident in your capabilities.
2. Start Slow
Unless you’ve been running, you need to start slow. You are training for running your first 5K, but that doesn’t mean you have to try to run a full 5K your first day of training. Just like any muscle, cardio takes time to build up. If you’ve been mostly sedentary, you may even have difficulties running a mile at a time. That’s okay! You’ve committed to running your first 5K to help improve your health and to give yourself a solid goal to work towards. That being said, give yourself mini goals. You’re giving yourself nearly two months to train for a reason; start of slow with some interval runs for 1 or 2 minutes at a time with a rest in between and then slowly work your way up to running a mile at a time. You’ll be surprised how fast your cardio builds and giving yourself small goals will encourage you to keep going.
It’s also important not to burn yourself out. If you are just starting out running, you shouldn’t be running every single day, no matter how much you want to get out there and improve. Running every day when your body isn’t used to it can open yourself up to injury, muscle fatigue, and personal burn out. Running 3-4 times a week is more than enough. If you’re worried about the days in between, try a lower impact cardio workout such as the elliptical or bike.
3. You Don’t Have To Be Fast
Just like you shouldn’t expect to be able to run miles at a time when you’ve never ran before, you also shouldn’t expect to be breaking records with your mileage times. There are people out there who can run a consistent 6-min mile, but these are people that have been running since they were young. When you’re just starting off, depending on your fitness level, you’ll see your mile be anywhere between 10-15 minutes. This is normal! Don’t get discouraged because you feel you aren’t going as fast as you should be. You’re doing it and that’s all that matters. Instead of comparing yourself to others or how well you think you should be doing, try comparing yourself to your past times. Try to go just a couple of seconds faster each time you run and you’ll be improving your time in no time. By the time you get to running your first 5K, you’ll surprise yourself!
4. Find What Works For You
You should train like you would on race day and as you continue to train, you’ll find out the things that work best for you down to the clothes you wear and the music you listen to. Running your first 5K can be hard so don’t do yourself a disservice by making it harder on yourself. Find clothes that you like to wear while running so that you are comfortable and aren’t constantly tugging at them. Finding leggings that stay in place while on the move or shorts that don’t ride up is more important than you think. You don’t want to have to expend any physical or mental energy on your clothes while you run when it’s entirely preventable. You’ll also find other things that work/don’t work for you along the way such as music, comfortable headphones, and the shoes that you wear. Running is a lot of trial and error and everyone is different. Some people like to have no noise and focus on their breathing while others like to blare music in their ears to distract that. Find what works for you and stick with it.
5. Have Fun!
When it’s finally race day, it’s important to just have fun. If you go into it dreading the miles that you have ahead of you, then you’ll be miserable during the whole race. Remember, running is just as mental as it is physical. It’s also important to note that no one is there to judge. When you arrive, you’ll find people of all ages and fitness levels and they are all incredibly supportive. Everyone is there for the same purpose – to support a healthy lifestyle. So, don’t be nervous! You’ll have people lapping you on the course and people far behind you as well. All that matters is that you are working at your own fitness level and doing your best at reaching a goal you set out for yourself.
Remember, you don’t have to be the fastest runner on the course. If you set realistic goals for yourself and give yourself the appropriate amount of time to train, then running your first 5K is totally plausible. Start slow and listen to your body and you’ll be running your first 5K in now time.