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Your First 5K

So, you want to run a 5K?

Elaine Gonya, Licensed Athletic Trainer
Aurora Sports Medicine Institute

If you’ve always wanted to participate in a running event, but you’ve stopped short of registering, it could be time to “step up” to the challenge. For most people who have not been involved in an official running event, starting with a shorter rather than longer distance is a great way to begin their lifetime involvement in the sport. Selecting a 5 Kilometer (3.1 mile) distance can be challenging, yet manageable goal.

You CAN do it!

Whether you are a runner of days gone by or an aspiring “pavement pounder”, the 5K distance is classic. With some dedication to a training program and sufficient time to prepare, it’s possible for almost anyone to complete a 5K. Commit to a training program: 30 to 60 minutes per day, four to five days per week, and in just six to eight short weeks, you’ll be ready to run! You may also have found a new favorite past-time.

How do I get started?

If you haven’t been active, but do want to get off the sidelines and into the race, you’re first stop is a physical exam with your doctor. Be sure to inquire about cardiovascular or orthopedic limitations; you want to identify any potential issues before you begin your training program. After you have been given the green light to go forward with your running career, an investment in high quality footwear (i.e., shoes that “fit” your foot mechanics and running style; orthotics if necessary) is important.

To minimize the muscle and joint soreness that you may experience when starting a formal running program, consider developing a “base” level of fitness. Cross training or lower impact exercise modes (cycling, elliptical, pool workouts) can help establish a base before subjecting your body to the pounding incurred during running. Once you are able to maintain continuous exercise for 15 to 20 minutes, you should be ready to begin a six-to-eight week running program.

Training Programs

There are so many books and videos on the market for the savvy fitness buff, however, not all programs are right for everyone. Before a stop to your local bookstore, determine your realistic running goals – take into consideration your current fitness level and limitations. Many of the references available are geared toward the avid runner and/or athlete looking to enhance performance. If “finishing” your first 5K is the goal, search for a book/video with that objective in mind. Be leery of references that encourage excessive mileage (the event is three miles long, not a marathon) or workout programs that encourage running six to seven days a week for a beginner.

“The race is not always to the swift”

One of the greatest aspects of running is the ability for a runner to set their own pace. The timeless runner’s adage, “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running” is accurate for any distance event.

Runners who are determined to finish can settle into a pace that works for both their ability and fitness level, allowing them to achieve running goals even if a finishing “time” is not the emphasis. Until a runner knows his/her fitness level and physical limitations, “time” is not as important as gaining the experience running affords. Is the pavement calling you?

For more information about running, other sports medicine topics, or to schedule a Free Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at (414) 219-7776 or (800) 219-7776.