If you are a long time couch potato looking to change your ways, training for a 5K can be a great way to peel your backside off the sofa and get in shape.
For the non-athletic, running a 3 mile race can sound as daunting as a marathon. But personal trainer Christopher McClintock argues that with the proper training you can go from the living room to the finish line with no trouble.
McClintock is no stranger to exercise. He has competed in 66 marathons and triathlons in his career, and is currently the head marathon coach of Fleet Feet Nashville in Nashville, TN. He also owns his own gym called Personal Best Fitness that has six personal trainers who work with a wide array of clientele. With his helpful tips, you’ll find it easier to reach your goal than you thought.
“As soon as you decide to do it, pay the money and sign up. That way you’re committed to the goal,” says McClintock. 5Ks are generally scheduled months in advance, giving you plenty of time to train. Websites like active.com have lists of races all around the US, and allow you to find the right one in your area. The earlier you sign up, the less expensive it will be and the more time you will have to prepare. However, even if you sign up on race day you will most likely spend no more than $35.
Choosing a 5k can be fun. They usually attract novice racers and have more of a laid back feel. Many of them are for specific causes such as cancer awareness while others have wacky themes and encourage participators to dress up.
If you don’t already own a good pair of running shoes, they should be first on your shopping list. Prices can range all over the spectrum. Just remember that you get what you pay for. When it comes to running long distances, your feet should be your main concern. The best place to purchase your shoes is a store that caters specifically to runners. They will take the time to measure your insole and watch your stride in order to match you with the best shoe possible for your foot.
Body Glide is a balm that goes on much like deodorant but is used to prevent chaffing. Using this will guarantee you stay comfortable during your workouts and on race day.
Also, don’t feel like you have to buy a new wardrobe. “You can go spend a thousand dollars easily on walking or running stuff,” McClintock says, adding, “But all you really need is shoes and a good attitude.”
It’s easy to say you’re going to do something. The hardest part is the follow through. One way to combat failure is to get accountability. This can come in the form of a friend, spouse, or personal trainer. McClintock states it should be, “someone that loves you enough to kick your butt to get you out the door.”
Having a partner in training helps, too. “If you have someone there suffering with you it makes it a lot more fun,” comments McClintock. “It makes all the difference in the world.”
Beginners will need at least 6-12 weeks in order to fully train for a 5K. While the opinion on how to train differs from person to person McClintock suggests looking online for a plan that caters to beginners, or finding a personal trainer in your area to give you educated and dedicated assistance.
“A lot of people think they have to go out and sprint at first,” says McClintock. “You don’t have to do that. You want to stay conversational during your walk.”
He suggests starting out the first week with a 20 minute workout. During those 20 minutes, alternate between walking 30 seconds and jogging for 30 seconds at a pace that is comfortable for you. If you can do this successfully for the full 20 min, the next week might move to a minute of jogging followed by 30 sec of walking and so on for 20 minutes.
“Whatever [you] did the week before, try to do about 10% more the next week. It’s a very gradual plan and that’s the safest way to do it,” says McClintock. “A typical first time 5K will take between 30 and 45 min to complete. So we will get up to walking and jogging 30 to 45 minutes so they’ll have confidence when they go in on race day.”
Don’t get overconfident, though. Once you start running you may feel like you can do more than your plan suggests. But McClintock advises against it. “A lot of people want to try to go too high too fast or too long and too fast. You need to scale back, stay comfortable, and just follow the plan.”
Make sure that no matter what regimen you choose, you first consult a physician and assure that you are exercising at your current fitness level. “If the furthest you can do is to your mailbox and back at first, that’s where we’ll start from,” says McClintock.
Despite what you’ve heard, there aren’t any drastic changes you need to make nutritionally as you start training. “For a couch to 5K program there isn’t a need to do carbohydrate loading. You don’t have to eat a lot the night before a long walk or run. You just want to make sure that you start to eat clean and healthy,” says McClintock.
One way to do this is by simply “watching the time.” “If you’re looking at your plate,” says McClintock, “and your plate is a clock, you want 45 min of it to be fruits or vegetables and the rest to be protein and carbohydrates. Lots of fruit, lots of vegetables.”
The best way to achieve a big goal is by splitting it down into several goals. Set small finish lines over your two months of training with rewards at the end of them to keep you motivated and feeling accomplished.
Another way to stay positive is by running for a cause. Many people choose to participate in 5K races in the name of an organization, a friend or a loved one who suffers from cancer or has passed away. Running with their picture or memento can keep you focused on your goal. “If you’re not going to do it for yourself,” says McClintock. “Do it for someone else, for a cause that you believe in.”
What are you waiting for?! Make the commitment today and do something good for yourself!! McClintock agrees. “It's a blast and you feel so good about yourself when you’re done.”
You heard him. Ready? Set? Go!