Even though it doesn’t look like it outside, spring will soon be here. And just as flowers start appearing so do 5k fundraising runs and walks. For example, ThedaCare Foundation-New London hosts the annual Wolf River Sturgeon Shuffle on April 25 and the American Cancer Society holds the Sole Burner 5k walk/run to fight cancer in downtown Appleton on May 9.
These activities are great reasons to get outside and get exercise. But unless you’re an avid exerciser, you can’t wake up and just run a 5k. You need to train for it. You’ll need seven weeks to properly train for a 5k, which is 3.1 miles.
Before any exercise, do some light stretching to get your body ready for the workout ahead. Gently stretching your leg muscles is especially key for running and walking. Your 5k training will involve alternating walking and running intervals until you’re running nearly the entire time.
During your first week, you want to alternate running and walking. Run for 15 seconds and then walk for 45 seconds, repeating this cycle for 30 minutes. Every week, increase the amount of time you run while decreasing how much you walk so eventually you’ll get to the point of running nearly the entire 30 minutes. The goal isn’t necessarily to get faster, but to go farther. You want to be able to run the full 5k so you need to gradually build up to that distance.
Aim to train three days a week with two other days set aside for other activities like swimming, yoga or lifting weights and two days of rest. Keep training the week of the race, but take off the day before to rest.
What you wear during training is also important. Some tips include:
Good shoes. Buy a pair of well-fit running shoes that you’ll use throughout training. Don’t try to break in a new pair the week of the race.
Embrace layering. It may be a bit chilly when you start out – especially if you run in the morning – but your body will quickly warm up so layering is key. Wear a sweatshirt over a t-shirt so that if you warm up, you can easily pull it off. Also look for clothing made of CoolMax or DriFit that will wick moisture away from your body.
Stay visible. The days are getting longer, but many people still run when it’s not fully light outside. Make sure you’re wearing reflective clothing so drivers can easily see you. I’ve also known some runners to carry a flashlight or have a light on the back of their clothing so drivers can easily spot them.
With proper planning, you’ll be able to successfully cross the finish line on race day, which is an amazing accomplishment.
Kim Kandler is a licensed athletic trainer with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care at ThedaCare Medical Center-New London.