So you decided to run a 5K. You’ve filled out the entry form, you’ve bought the running shoes, you’ve gotten the all-clear from your physician to start actually, you know, running. Now what? Here’s what you need to know.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Every training session and race should be bookended by a warm-up and a cooldown. For the warm-up, shoot for 10 minutes of whatever it takes to get your heart rate up: high knees, butt kicks, hip bridges, jumping jacks, light jogging. For the cooldown, walk for five minutes to lower your heart rate and then stretch yourself out or grab a foam roller—more on that handy piece of equipment below.
You’re not going to magically run faster on race day if all of your workouts leading up to it were exactly the same. Shape recommends working 80-meter sprints into your training schedule. But be sure to ease into these sprints, working up to the full 80 meters over several weeks or even months, in order to avoid injuries to your muscles and bones.
When you’re training, it’s crucial not to do too much, too fast. While the ambition to go from zero to full-speed is admirable, pushing yourself too hard can lead to all sorts of injuries. According to PopSugar Fitness, a good rule of thumb is to gradually increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent each week.
Use a Foam Roller
The foam roller is a true hero in the fitness world: When used correctly, it can alleviate soreness and tightness by boosting your blood flow and flexibility. Considering most new runners will encounter aches at some point, think of the roller as your new best friend. Learn how to use it in these 10 moves from Men’s Fitness or this eight-part video series from Runners World.
Follow a Plan
If you just want to be told exactly how to train, day by day, Prevention has whipped up a training program for walkers and runners of all levels. Follow along here to go from the couch to a 5K in six weeks—no matter how fast you can hit the pavement today.