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Tuesday Tip- Training Tips for Your First 5k

Training Tips for Your First 5k Race:

Yes, you can do it! (And these running tips can help!)

By Kayla Roth, PT, DPT- Physical Therapist at Sauk Valley Physical Therapy

Kayla Roth, PT, DPT
Setting the goal: First you must make the commitment to sign up and run your first 5k. Then it’s important to set a realistic goal in regards to finishing the race. For some, just finishing the race is a goal and for others setting a time goal is preferred. Whatever your goal is, it’s important to remember to set one because it will give you something to work towards and will be your motivation to keep going through your training.

Training duration: Make sure to sign up for a race far enough in advance to give yourself adequate time to train and prepare. For runners who have not run a 5k race, but do run and exercise regularly, 2-3 months (8-12 weeks) will typically be a sufficient amount of time to train. For those runners who run and exercises more sporadically, a little more time may be needed to reach their goals. Likewise, runners who are already consistently running more than 2-3 miles at least 4 times a week, will need slightly less time to train. There are many training programs out there that can be found on the internet, if searched and can further assist in a proper schedule and running plan. Many of them are geared for all different levels as well (i.e. beginner, intermediate or advanced runner).

Don’t stress out: Races are supposed to be fun and filled with many other runners who are looking to have an enjoyable running experience as well. The spectators are supportive and their encouragement throughout the race will also help to make it a pleasant experience. So don’t worry about looking silly, being too slow, or not reaching your goal. Just remember, regardless of how you finish the race, you’re always going to be faster than the person that is still sitting at home on their couch. Be proud of yourself for making the decision to run a race, for all of the hard work you put into training and go out there and just enjoy the moment because you only get one “first” race, why not have fun with it!

Do a practice run: If possible walk, run or drive the race route before the race so that you have a general idea of the layout of the course ahead of time. That way you won’t be surprised by the terrain on the day of the run

Eat right: Eating right and healthy is always good to do throughout your training, but it is especially important the night before. Try not to overeat or overload on too much food the night before. Now is not the time to try any few foods that you haven’t eaten before and don't eat those that you know your stomach does not tolerate or it could leave you running for the restroom during the race instead of the finish line.

Hydrate: Make sure to stay well hydrated before, during and after your race. However, don’t over hydrate to the point that you feel super full. Over hydration can cause hyponatremia, but not drinking enough can also leave you dehydrated (hypernatremia). Typically, the rule of thumb to follow is to drink to thirst. Generally 6-8 ounces of water before you work out and then 4-6 ounces every 15-30 minutes depending on how intense you are exercises and how hot the climate is you are exercising in.

Prep time the night before: Lay out your race day clothes, shoes, socks and any accessories (i.e. head phones, arm band, water bottle, etc.) the night before. Also, lay your bib out with the pins already pinned onto the four corners so that you can easily attach it to your running outfit in the morning.

Get up early and get to the race early: You want to give yourself ample time to get up and ready for the race, eat something light, drive to the race, park, stretch, use the restroom, etc. all before the race starts. I suggest planning arrive at a race at least 25-30 minutes early. Sometimes the parking for the race is a little further from the start of the race than is or the roads you take to get to the race may be blocked off prior to the start of the race forcing you to take a detour to get there. You don't want to be rushing to the start of the race trying to get your shoes tied, you race bib on, eat you breakfast, stretch out, etc. So do yourself a favor, get up early and plan to be to the race early.

Gear for pre-race:

Warmer clothing: Dig through your closet and find some old clothes that you don’t mind getting rid of and use them as your pre-race clothes to stay warm. A lot of times it is chilly while standing around for the race to start, so a sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt and pants are necessary, however, once you get running, you will warm up quickly and will likely want to shed those warmer clothes. So, either choose an item of clothing you don’t mind just throwing off or pick one that will not be too uncomfortable to tie around your waist. A lot of times, especially at larger races the race coordinators will have people pick up the discarded clothing and donate it to nearby shelters or Goodwill.

Garbage bags/blankets: Sometimes the ground will be wet or cold in the morning of the race and if you plan on sitting down and stretch prior to the race you will want to stay dry and warm. You can do so by taking a garbage bag from home and sitting on that instead of the ground, which can be easily disposed of prior to the race. Blankets can work too if you don’t mind leaving it behind or if you have a friend or family member watching the race that can hold onto it for you when the race starts.

Never try anything new race day: Race day is finally here! You're super excited and have been waiting to wear that brand new running out fit and shoes that you just got for the occasion. WRONG! Now is not the time to be trying out anything new that you have not already tried in training. Stick to what you wore in training and what you know you are comfortable in. New clothing and shoes will not be broken in and can give you blisters or rub your skin raw which can become uncomfortable very quickly during a race.

Start slow: The hype on race day is always high, but remember not to shoot out of the gates too fast at the start of the race. It is easy to get caught up in the fast pase start, but you want to make sure and reserve some energy for the end of the race so you don’t burn out too soon. So remember, start off slow, let others pass you if they feel they need to start fast and then as you get further into your run, gradually speed up with each mile. If you save some of that energy for the last half of the race, I bet you’ll find yourself passing some of those runners who started out too fast and ended up on empty before they got to the finish.

Don’t weave in and out: In addition to not starting too fast, try not to weave in and out of the runners in front of you when you first start the race. The beginning leg of the race is always crowded. Everyone wants to get as close to that start line as possible. When the race starts it takes a little bit of time, usually a few tenths of a mile to a half of mile, before all of the runners spread out. While it is tempting, resist the urge to weave in and out, passing other runners right off of the bat. Weaving in and out will burn your energy out too quickly and you’ll be out of gas by the time you get to the last leg of the raise.

Warm up and cool down: It is important to warm up properly before a race, as well as cooling down after a race.

Warm up: Dynamic warm ups are the best type of warm up and stretching to do before an activity. Dynamic warm ups and stretching involving stretching while actively moving. Examples include light jogging, skipping, walking high knees, walking butt kicks, walking toe touches, jumping jacks, etc. Theses exercises help to get your blood pumping and muscles warmed up and ready to race.

Cool down: After you cross the finish line, take a few moments to continue walking to catch your breath and bring your heart rate back down. Once you’ve done this, static stretching to cool the muscles down, improve flexibility and prevent post race soreness, is the best. Examples include: standing or seated hamstring, quadriceps, calf and hip flexor stretching.