Are you ready to get off the couch and get your first medal of achievement? Here are the steps to go running your first 5K. You get to choose if you want to do it hardcore or sensible.
1. See Your Doctor
I can hear you thinking, I do: “man, how can you be so lame? See my doctor! I want to get fit and run a 5K!”
Yes, I know you likely ventured onto this article all fired up and ready to get going and reap the benefits of cardio.
But if you want to do this successfully, you have to prepare. If you have some undetected health condition and suffer a heart attack or some such during your running, then the new hobby designed to make you fit could you make you unfitter. A lot. Like in dead.
2. Get The Right Gear
If you only want to try running out, just about any old sneaker will do, but I encourage you to sooner than later get one that truly fits you and your running style. You should especially do this if you found the running very uncomfortable – the culprit could very well be your shoe.
Buying one doesn’t have to be expensive; here is how to pick a good shoe without spending a fortune.
3. Configure Your 5K
To run a 5K (5 km or 3.1 miles), you have to know what a 5K is. Which is easy if you run on a treadmill or stadium track. On the first you simply look at the counter, doing the second you just have to know that the standard stadium round is 400 m. As 1K is 1,000 m, you therefore have to run 12.5 rounds for a 5K.
But what when you want to run in your neighbourhood? Here the internet and Google’s free tool Google Earth can help us out.
First of all, install Google Earth if you haven’t yet, and start it. In the search field in the upper left corner, enter the address from where you want to begin your run and click “Search.”
The program will zoom in on that address and mark it with a little red beacon. Now click on the ruler icon in the horizontal bar. In the window that now opens choose “Path” and set the measurement to “Kilometers.”
In the main window click on the street or path where your starting point is, decide in what direction you want to run, and make a second click where you want to do a turn.
The program will start tracking the route, in the small window showing you the total length you so far clicked together. Do this until you reach 5 km. If you want to end your 5K where you started, you should of course plot a circuit.
4. Warm Up
Ok, you got your shoes on, you got your route plotted and you are at the beginning of your course. But before you start the 5K proper, you should warm up by swiftly walking for 2 to 3 minutes. This will increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare them for the task ahead.
Do not stretch before you run, as stretching cold muscles can do more damage than good.
5. Starting To Run
Now you are good to go and you start to run. At this point it helps to remember that running is nothing but a rate of moving that is slightly faster than swiftly walking. A good rule of thumb is to run at a speed where you can still hold a conversation. Don’t make the beginner mistake of running as fast as you can. It won’t work.
Because if you are untrained, even a moderate rate will feel like too much for longer periods of time. But that is no problem. Simply jog for as long as you can, then take a break where you swiftly walk. When your breath and heart beat have gone down, start jogging again.
Do this until, well, now you get to decide:
5a. Your First 5K: The Brutal Way
This I don’t recommend, but I know that some of you will want to try it out: beginning with the whole route.
When you start you will have to take lots of breaks and doing the entire 5K can easily take an hour or longer. You may even feel that the second half is one long break. That can be rather demotivational and I think it’s better to try it in smaller steps, each signifying an achievement.
5b. Your First 5K: The Sensible Way
Therefore what I’d much rather have you do is breaking down the route into five parts (again using Google Earth’s plotting tool), each 1 km long:
- Run 1k until you can do it without a break, then
- run 2k until you can do it without a break, then
- run 3k until you can do it without a break, then
- run 4k until you can do it without a break, then
- do the whole thing
Each of these phases can last two to four weeks, depending on how often you train. I recommend three sessions per week: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. Of course you can pick other days, but I’d leave at least one rest day between each training.
6. After Each Session
When your session is over, you should do as in the beginning: swiftly walk for 2 to 3 minutes. This allows your body to lower its blood pressure at a safe rate. After a run, your veins are dilated and when the heart starts beating slower, your blood pressure can drop.
It’s Your Turn
This basically was the way I did it, back when I lost weight. With the only difference that instead of setting a distance, I set an amount of time I wanted to run (30 minutes). The faster I became, the longer I had to make the route and at some point simply arrived at running my first 5K. Looking back, this took me about six months, but I was very unfit. You may very well be able to do it faster.
Which means it’s now your turn: try it out and let me know how it goes! If you already did your first 5K, share your experiences and of course any tips you have!
Picture of running woman courtesy of “lululemon“, Google Earth images © Google, Inc..