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Running Tips: How to Train Safely for Your First 5K Race


Sheila Olson of |

According to Running USA, over 18 million registrants participate in road races, such as 5K events, in America each year. If you've decided to start running and want to train for a 5K, follow these tips to train safely and effectively for your first race.

Set a reasonable goal

If you haven't run in years, it's not feasible to think you'll be running a 5K race next weekend. Look for races that are happening in your area several months from now. Pick one of them and make it your goal to run in that race. You can also set a goal to finish in a certain amount of time or, since it's your first 5K, to just finish!

Be smart about training

Make sure you have good running shoes that fit properly. Also, if you have health concerns, talk to your doctor about your running plans. They may have suggestions on how often or hard you should train, depending on any medical conditions. Next, you'll need to find a place where you are going to do your training. Are you going to run on a track? On the treadmill? Around the block? A rubber track would be the easiest on your feet, knees, and back. Dirt or grass would be next, followed by asphalt and then concrete.

Start training slowly

If you aren't in shape, it's going to take you longer to prepare for a 5K than someone who works out regularly. When you begin training, take it slowly. Start by walking a distance you are comfortable with or for a certain amount of time each day. After a week, extend the distance and alternate between walking and running. Each week, you'll want to add more distance and do less walking. Give yourself two days off each week from training to recoup. Over the course of two to three months of running five days each week, you should be ready to run a 5K race.

Do drills

In addition to running to train, you should also do some drills to improve your technique. For example, cadence drills will improve how fast your feet connect with the ground and how efficiently you run. Cadence is the number of times your fit hit the ground in a minute. You can find a number of cadence drill resources online, such as this one from Run Farther & Faster.

Track your progress

While training, you'll want to set some goals along the way and track your progress. Use a fitness tracker, such as Samsung Galaxy Fit, or a smartwatch, like an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch 4 can work as a motivator, as well as keep you healthy and safe on your runs. This version includes enhanced features like electrocardiogram (ECG) generation, fall detection, and emergency SOS.

Fuel up

Don't starve yourself on race day. Consume a light carbohydrate snack or small meal about 1 1/2 hours prior to running. Drink plenty of water before and during the run. After the run, eat a light carbohydrate and protein snack as soon as possible to keep you nourished. Don't stress about your time or anything else during the race. Start out at a steady pace, and then try to pick up the speed in the final 25 percent of the run.

Celebrate yourself

No matter what your time is in the race, celebrate your finish. Go out with fellow racers to lunch, get a massage, or take yourself on a little shopping spree. Your first 5K is a big deal, so celebrate it well!

Running races, whether 5Ks or marathons, can be a great way to stay in shape, meet new friends, and have a lot of fun. If you’ve decided you want to run a 5K, be sure to take care of yourself, train properly, and set attainable goals. Crossing the finish line for the first time is sure to be an experience you won’t soon forget.

Photo via Pixabay



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