It’s after work, and you’re ready to get your sweat on for the second time this week! You’ve slipped on your workout clothes with the latest in moisture-wicking ability. Your specially fitted athletic shoes are laced-up tight. A water bottle fueled by polar-ice technology held tight in one hand, while the door leading out into the world of health and fitness lies mere inches away from the other but before you know it, you’re back on the couch watching Dancing with the Stars.
It is common to experience a form of disconnect between your workout goals and your fitness realities. A crucial step in reconciling the two is to find motivation. And there is no better motivation than signing up for a race. And a 5K is the perfect race for beginners.
A 5K is equal to 3.1 miles. By committing to train only 3 days a week, starting 9 weeks before the race, for 30 minutes a day, you can get in shape to complete your 5K. The reason why many people become turned off by running is that they do not train themselves properly. They make the mistake of trying to run as long as they can or as fast as they can, which can lead to severe muscle exhaustion and frustration. The proper methodology is to ease into getting in shape and gradually build endurance over the course of time. Start off slow and allow your body time to warm up. Maintain a pace that you can cope with and doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted at the end of each session. Alternate running and walking (running 4 minutes, walking 1 minute) for equal intervals of distance, then as you get stronger, gradually reduce your walking time each week until you are able to run up to 30 minutes consecutively. When starting out, it’s not necessary to worry about how many miles you run. Focus on the number of minutes instead. Gradually, you’ll begin to cover more ground in the same amount of time, and that’s when you’ll want to increase the duration of your workout.
You may experience soreness in your legs in the beginning, but if you keep up with your routine, it should subside. But if you feel acute pain anywhere, stop running for a few days to let your legs recover, to prevent injuries. Shin splints are a common hazard when you overdo your training or if you wear improper shoes, so look to purchase your running shoes at a specialty store where employees can recommend models based on your ability and goals. If you can hold a conversation while you’re running, you’re at a good pace. But try for a shorter run, once or twice a week, if you are able, at a higher speed so that talking becomes more difficult. It will help increase your fitness level and cardiovascular strength. Be aware of the difference between being tired and being injured. As with all physical activities, make sure you are cleared by a medical professional before engaging in a running program.
Running a distance of 5K can help you lose weight because you burn off more calories than you consume. The amount of which will vary depending on your running pace and current body weight but you could potentially average 100 calories per mile. And every time you burn 3,500 more calories than you consume, you see a pound of fat loss. However, this should be done gradually and you shouldn’t try to lose more than one to two pounds per week. Your nutritional habits will also factor into your weight loss success – 5K runs will only end up helping you to lose weight if you follow a healthy eating plan. Because running leads to an increase in muscle mass, your resting metabolism will increase, which means you’ll burn more calories at rest. Combining running with a healthy diet, consisting of plenty of protein and high energy foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, will improve things even more.
As with other physical activities, running can provide an array of other health benefits. Running ranks high on the list of aerobic exercises for the physical conditioning of your heart and lungs by ensuring the efficient flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body, which can help reduce the risks associated with a heart attack. Running releases hormones such as testosterone and growth hormones to help with muscle repair and cell regeneration, insulin and adrenalin to transform fat into energy, cortisol to reduce stress and endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones that give you that “runner’s high” that elevates your mood. You end up feeling generally happier, more energetic and creative. Running targets those pesky problem areas too; it tightens your glutes and flattens your abs. It improves your stamina and as a weight-bearing exercise, can also increase bone density, which can stave off osteoporosis.
Running 3 days per week delivers peak benefits without increasing your injury risk, so once you determine an appropriate schedule to get yourself in shape or to run in a 5K, you’ll find the motivation you need to exercise, when you could otherwise make excuses. Print out your schedule and hang it up somewhere in view at work or on the fridge at home. These reminders will help keep you accountable.
Because a 5K is a shorter race by comparison, runners find that they can really tap into their adrenaline, even if they train at a slow pace. The thrill of having made it to race day after all of your hard work and dedication will keep you pumped up during your run. You may even feel as if you’re pulling the collective energy of other runners, pushing you to forge ahead towards the finish line, giving you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment and perhaps even the desire to sign up for your next 5K. And because it’s such a realistic goal, many charities and non-profit organizations sponsor 5Ks as fundraisers and community events. So, not only can you help your own mind and body but also create the potential to contribute something worthwhile to your community or to help raise funds or awareness for a valuable cause.
But what if you have the desire to run, but not to compete? Some people simply love to run but dislike the feeling or pressure of competition. But just because you’re not running in a race doesn’t mean you can’t have a goal. Identifying your running goals makes you more likely to get out to run and shape your overall strategy, whether it’s the improvement of your overall health, weight loss, stress relief, socializing, or just trying to claim some “me time”.
With running, it’s not simply about strength and endurance but also about will and determination. Don’t let negative thinking get in the way of your goals. When starting out, don’t think about how staggering the distance could be. Focus on only the next walk break or the next run segment, the next tree or street sign. Think only about one small portion of your run that you know you can complete. And once you’ve reached that imagined marker, shift your attention to the next one. Before you know it, you will have completed your run successfully. You can even create your own mantra, a positive-statement you focus on within your mind. Try repeating a statement like “I can do it”, “I’m in control”, or “I feel better”, to keep you moving. And remind yourself to keep your focus on your own workout. Other runners may be working on their speed work, so of course they’ll end up passing you! Don’t let it bother you. Instead, use those runners as inspiration, and feed off their energy to pick up your pace a bit.
How do you find when and where a 5K is being held? You can find lists of running events or local 5Ks online. Even some specialty shoe stores or athletic sports shops will post up schedules. You can even look in or around your own community to see if one is being held.