Recently a blogging friend inspired by my Marathon race contacted me asking for advice on how to train for a 5K. Oh yeah, I love, love, love welcoming new runners into the fold! Making the decision to train and run a 5K is one that pays back amazing dividends. You will discover the delight of exceeding what you thought you were capable of accomplishing and understanding that your best is always yet to come.
When I decided to train and run a 5K, I consulted friends who have extensive running experience before I started my training. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about running and had crucial knowledge gaps when I first started training, leading to numerous mild injuries. Whether you join a running group or use a Couch to 5K program, there are a few things that you need to know before beginning any 5K training program. I’ve put together a list to help you avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced as you progress in your running journey. I base these recommendations on my personal experience; you should always consult a running professional for more detailed information.
1. Make sure you are healthy enough to run. This would be a good time to schedule the yearly physical you’ve been putting off all year.
2. Invest in running shoes. This does not mean walking into a sporting goods store and picking out running shoes that match your athletic gear. Find a local running store where the employees are runners themselves. Tell them you are beginning to train for a 5K and need help picking out an appropriate shoe. Also inquire if the store performs gait analysis as part of the decision process in helping you find appropriate shoes. If you want to read up on the bio-mechanics of running shoes – REI has a great summary of what you need to know when choosing running shoes. See also Cool Running - Running shoes for Dummies, Part 1. In summary, having the right shoe goes along way in preventing injury as you progress in your running journey.
3. After you have selected your running shoes, purchase running socks to wear with your shoes. Running socks are typically made of synthetic fibers that wick away moisture to help prevent blisters. Always wear your running socks with your running shoes. Believe me, you want to prevent blisters! Mizuno, an awesome running shoe, has a great post on why running socks matter.
4. Inquire at the running store if they organize group runs or do a google search for running groups in your area. Running in a group is a great way to meet runners of all levels and have fun at the same time. For example: Philly Runners is a great group that organizes runs in Philly all year long.
5. Invest in technology that will track your pace, distance and time. Nike+ for your iPhone or RunKeeper are free applications that will track your pace and distance. In time, you may want to invest in a sports watch such as Nike+ Sport Watch or Garmin Forerunner 910XT GPS -Enabled Sport Watch. As a beginner runner, save your dollars and work with the free applications until you gain more experience as a runner i.e. many moons from now. At that time, I would strongly suggest the two watches mentioned above.
6. BEDROCK RULE OF RUNNING: Warm up before each run regardless of the distance and stretch after every run. These two activities are non-negotiable, you will stretch before and after a run or suffer preventable injuries. I suggest dynamic stretching/warm-ups before running. Why? Here is good study on the impact of dynamic stretching and running. I also incorporate Pilate and yoga stretching in my post run stretching.