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5 Steps to Complete Your First 5k

Completing Your First 5K Run

So you’ve decided, maybe in your head, maybe on paper, or maybe you told a friend; you are going to complete your first 5k.  So now what?  A couple of important things before we get into that.   Note the title of this blog post, it says COMPLETE your first 5k, so if the thought in your head is saying RUN your first 5k, change that word right now.  You do not HAVE to run every step of your first 5k, that can be a goal in the future, let’s just talk about completing your first 5k using these 5 steps:

STEP 1 – Register for a 5k.

Yes, that is step one, make it real, get some skin in the game and sign up!  From personal experience I did not actually run a marathon the several times I said I was going to.  It wasn’t until I got online and signed up that I actually made the commitment, did the training, and completed my first (and probably only) marathon.  (Be sure to see step 3 BEFORE signing up so you know how much time you need to train)

Thanks to the internet finding an event is easier than ever, do a search for 5ks in your area and see what comes up.  Active.com is a great resource to find events, you can search by your area, type of event, and length of event.   Check to see if your state has a marathon foundation (don’t worry they do more than just marathons), these foundations usually run several events each year.  Check social media, talks to friends, and look for yard signs promoting events, they are everywhere and most are fundraisers so you will also be supporting a good cause.

If you are in the NW corner of CT (and female) consider the Girls Just Wanna Run 5k that takes place at the beginning of May each year.  This event is a great 1st 5k, they encourage walkers as well as runners and it is a nice level course out and back along Bantam Lake in Litchfield.  Proceeds benefit the Jr. Women’s Club of Litchfield Hills (I am a sponsor for the event and will be running in it – be sure to message me so I know you are there).  More information to sign up for this event can be found at www.girlsjustwannarun.com

STEP 2 – Go buy a good pair of running (or walking if you will only be walking) sneakers.

YES, you do need a new pair of sneakers.  The sneakers that you’ve been wearing for the past two year are tired and your body deserves a new pair as you take on this new adventure.  300 – 350 miles is the average life of running sneakers, now for some that may mean 2 years and for others it may mean 2 months.  Do not neglect this point, you want to keep your body healthy as you train.

How do you know a good running sneaker?  Well first you should expect to spend more than $50.  I typically spend $75 – $125 on running sneakers.  There are several name brands that are well known and each has their own pros and cons.  When it comes right down to it, DO NOT BUY THE SNEAKERS JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE THE WAY IT LOOKS.  You need to try on BOTH sneakers, walk around, jog a little if the store permits, but really pay attention to how they feel, not how they look.  The ugliest sneaker may be the most comfortable.

I am not an expert in this area, nor am I going to recommend a particular brand.   After trying on several pairs over several years I have come to know what works for me, not what will work for you.  If you feel you need some expert advice find a running shoe store in your area and have your feet measured, your gait watched, and tell the expert about any aches and pains you feel in your feet, knees, back etc., let the expert suggest the sneakers you should try.  If you are in CT I highly recommend Fleet Feet.  Expect to pay up to $200 on your first visit as they are probably also going to suggest innersoles, if you can swing it get them, they can make a big difference.

STEP 3 – It’s time to start the training.

Let’s start by avoiding the most common mistake that people make, they try to do too much too fast.  You know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” well you should not head out on your first day expecting to run a mile!  I’ve heard so many people say “I can’t do a 5k, I hate running!”  Like I said before, get the “I have to run the whole 5k” notion out of your head, we are working on completing your first 5k!  The best way to start is with a walk/run training system.  There are several different types of programs available, my favorite app for 5k training is C25K (couch to 5k).  You put this on your phone, it tells you how much to walk/run each day, how many days, etc.  This is an 8-week program.  If you don’t have 8 weeks until the race that you signed up for in Step 1 – I would argue that if you train consistently you would be ready after week 6, but don’t cut your training shorter than that, it could lead to injuries. 

I have done this training with clients in the past using a walk/run method but we NEVER focus on the distance, it’s all based on time of walks and runs.  This is something you can start today, here’s a quick plan you can follow over the next 6 weeks.  Each jog/walk interval is repeated 10 times. 

5K Training plan chart

Grab your phone and use your stopwatch, get a timing program and program in the above intervals, or just count it out with your steps.  Don’t make it difficult, use what you have available and get started, there is not excuse you don’t need fancy equipment.  Spread out your runs, they do not have to be, nor should they be 3 days in a row (more on that in step 4).  This plan is a guide, listen to your body but be careful of doing too much too fast.  You may feel really good and push too hard and then end up on the sideline watching everyone else cross the finish line.  It may seem slow, you may think there is too much walking, I’ve used this with clients and have designed it in a way that works, you need to trust the system.

STEP 4 – Add some type of strength training to your training schedule.

Another mistake that a lot of new runner make is that they only run for their training.   Strength training is a very important part of your training schedule and should be done two days per week between your run days.  You will also have two rest days each week which are important, don’t skip your rest days.  You do not have to go out and look to set personal best Olympic weight lifting record, you need to do something that focuses on strengthening your muscles. 

Coach Mel’s offers various full-body strength training classes each week.  Workouts can be done in the comfort of your own home through live virtual classes (these classes are on ZOOM led by me with other clients at specific times).  Another option is subscribing to the Coach Mel’s content library, you would be doing the same classes that we are doing in the live classes but there would be no live instruction and you can do the classes at anytime and anywhere you have internet access.  All classes are done with dumbbells.   For more information, please visit www.coachmels.com

STEP 5 – Go buy yourself a new running outfit and get ready to compete your first 5k.

You’ve worked hard for this; you’ve put in the time for training you deserve to spoil yourself!  When picking out your outfit make sure you think about what the weather is going to be like, if it’s cool layers are best, if it’s hot less is better but don’t forget the sunblock. 

Obviously this just scratched the surface of running, I have so much more to share, but it is a great place to start and to get you to your first finish line.  I’d love to hear about your first 5k, when, where, how it went, etc.  There is no feeling quite like finishing your first 5k, my first was in 2007 and I’ve been running ever since.   Remember, you get to that finish line when you get there, run, walk or crawl it doesn’t matter, just set your goal to cross the finish line.  You got this!

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