Does the thought of running your first 5km get you excited about exercise? Exercise physiologist Kathleen Alleaume shows you how to safely prepare for your first race.
New year’s resolutions are a wonderful way to start the year off right, and choosing to get healthy (or get healthier) is an excellent decision. But new year’s resolutions often get sidelined if momentum dissipates. If you have resolved to start running, you can maintain those good intentions with careful planning, preparation and motivation.
Running your first 5km can be motivating, challenging and exciting all at once. This 4-week program is ideal for those who are new to running (or getting back into it). By the end of the program, you should be able to run continuously for 5km in about 40 minutes, using a combination of walking and running to help you build up your endurance.
Important running tips
Keep your body upright with only a slight forward lean and hold your head up by looking at the road ahead.
Keep your breathing steady and rhythmic, inhaling through the nose and exhaling out through the mouth.
Invest in a good pair of running shoes, i.e. ones that provide sufficient cushioning to protect your back and legs from injury.
Wear comfortable clothing.
Run on soft surfaces (e.g. grass) wherever possible. This is much easier on the joints.
Remember to stay hydrated. Water is the best choice for optimal hydration.
How fast should I run?
A good running pace is one in which you could answer a question, but not carry on a conversation. That is, you should experience a slight, but noticeable, increase in breathing and heart rate. If you are getting breathless you need to ease back so that you can complete the full routine. Remember, it is the length of time that you exercise that’s important, not your speed.
Complete each week’s workout three times a week. As you get fitter, you may wish to increase the frequency of your workouts to four days a week. Be sure to space out the sessions throughout the week to give your muscles a chance to rest and recover between efforts. You don’t want to run every day as a beginner, since you could do damage to your muscles and joints, and don’t schedule more than four running sessions per week.
Start each session with a brisk five-minute walk to warm-up, then follow the prescribed workout for that week. By alternating walking and running, you are building your muscle strength and endurance. Finish your workout with a five-minute walk and some stretches to cool down. As always, if you have not exercised for a while, you should consult a doctor before starting any exercise program.
Weeks 1 and 2
When you start to train for your first 5km, you will want to take it slow initially, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. Do not try to get fit in a hurry; you will get there, but it should be a measured, gradual effort. Also, bear in mind that you are more at risk of injury or muscle soreness at the beginning of an exercise regime, so don’t push yourself too hard.
The goal is to ease into your running program so you will stay consistent. You cannot remain consistent if you are in so much pain that you cannot run properly, so it’s better to take it slow.
Weeks 3 and 4
Your workouts will now move towards longer running intervals. The idea is to gradually increase your endurance, muscle strength and improve your heart and lung function. When increasing your endurance, try not to do too much too soon. Stay with your routine for at least a week before increasing your intensity.
By the end of week four, you should be able to comfortably run 5km continuously in about 40 minutes. If not, simply keep training until you can run the full 5km (no matter how long it takes).
Once you can run 5km without stopping, you’re ready to sign up for a fun run. See www.coolrunning.com.au (the ‘free runs’ section at the bottom of the home page) to find fun runs in your state.