By: Kristina Rich, NBC-NWC, CPT, CET
In 2021, many races are still virtual due to COVID-19 concerns, but whether you run on a treadmill, in your neighborhood or a nearby trail or park — the satisfaction of completing a race is a wonderful feeling. If you’ve decided 2021 is a year you want to sign up for a 5K, there are many races and causes to support at RunMichigan.com. Now is the time to set your goal and start hitting the pavement. Maybe you want to complete a 5K in the next month, maybe by the end of the summer, maybe by the end of the year. Whatever your goal, just set your mind to it and then your training schedule can easily align.
But, don’t try to do too much too fast. Running can be a life-long healthy habit — but you likely won’t enjoy it if you push too hard, too soon and don’t enjoy the journey. Don’t let impatience ruin the challenge of completing your first race!
Here are 5 tips that will help you gear up for your couch to 5K:
1. Get a physical.
Before beginning a new physical activity program, it’s important to get the all-clear from your doctor. They can help you understand any health issues you may have so you don’t end up putting yourself at risk.
2. Pick a Race.
When you know the date you are working toward, you can better establish a training time frame. Upcoming races can be found at your local running store, on Facebook, RunMichigan.com or consider joining a Priority Health Champions event on this calendar.
3. Buddy up.
Find a partner, preferably at your same fitness level. Whether it’s an individual, a running group or your pooch, a partner creates accountability.
4. If the shoe fits, wear it.
Your best bet is to be properly fitted for running-specific shoes at a specialty shop. Running shoes that fit properly are less likely to cause blisters, shin splints, or aches and pains in your feet while you run.
5. Fuel your body.
Deciding to take on a 5K doesn’t just involve changing physical habits, it involves changing dietary habits as well. Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated throughout the day will help you feel and perform your best while you train. Not only will you have more energy while you work out, but you’ll recover more quickly if your body has the nutrients it needs.
So, now that you’ve chosen a race, picked out your shoes, etc, how do you work up running 3.1 miles straight? That’s where Couch to 5K programs come in. There are several resources available to help get you going and stay on track.
C25K – 5K Trainer– Designed for new runners, the plan’s structure prevents people from giving up, and at the same time, challenges them to continue moving forward. It partners with MyFitnessPal for seamless integration and allows you to listen to your own favorite music while you train. Link it up with Facebook and get to know other runners!
Cool Running Couch to 5K – Created in 1996 by Josh Clark, the Cool Running Couch to 5K program is the plan that started them all. Each session takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete, three times a week and ramps up every week. The increase in running is so gradual, that by the end of the program, you won’t believe you can run 3.1 miles without stopping. The program can be accessed at CoolRunning.com. For those of you that prefer the program in smartphone app form, the program is available for purchase for $2.99.
Good old-fashioned journaling is also a great way to stay on track and keep your motivation. Put a calendar on your fridge, or a pad of paper on your nightstand. Record your daily activity and watch your time and endurance increase. Rewarding yourself for small victories is very important. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a little something to keep you going!
Getting started is the hardest step. Just take it one day at a time. Remember, no matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch.
About the author: Kristina Rich, NBC-NWC, CPT, CET is a nationally-certified health and wellness coach. She works to help her clients develop a personalized plan for their own health and wellbeing based on what is realistic and beneficial. Kristina is also a certified personal trainer and cancer exercise trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine.