Don’t Do What I Do: When Training for a 5k

Happiness = FREE 5ks!

Every year, I find a 5k that I really piques my interest. Oh, look! It’s a Furry 5k run and the proceeds go towards no-kill shelters for dogs... and it’s a flat course.

Click. A light turns on in my head: I. Must. Train.

Weeks later, I’ve somehow summoned energy to binge train–and I don’t mean just a couple miles each day– I mean train hard. At least a 5k and preferably a pace no slower than 27 minutes. I don’t miss a day. I push my body beyond its limits. Everything in my body aches. I wonder how sore I’ll be before the Furry 5k, so I stop training a couple days before the big race. But–I realize I’ve fallen behind in my job, my grading, my social life, and to be frank, everything else. So I run the damned 5k and squeak by with a medal, but for the next few weeks, I stop running altogether. Normal life resumes.

That is a rotten, unplanned approach to training and running. In my experience, it should be about consistency and balance–as is everything. Am I right? Finding the time to run is often the hardest feat–a topic I’ll get into later.

The key is moderation

Train for your 5k in moderation. A 5k is 3.1 miles, a seemingly daunting distance at first, but running this distance is great for beginners. Depending on your athletic abilities, you can prepare in anywhere between a few weeks or a few months.

On the other hand, if you’ve been out of sync for a while, because, you know, LIFE, you may have issues accepting that you cannot jump back into a 5k and expect to run a sub 24 minute 5k (like you did four years ago). Granted, I’m only 26, but I swear my body has changed since then! That was, and still is, my biggest hurdle.

But then life happens…

When I started my first full time job, I quickly found that my take-home-work was absorbing into my running time. Life became hectic. I didn’t set aside time for running, so once I started up again, I was deflated to find out I could barely run a 5k in under 30 minutes. I was comparing my shape now to my cardio-fit college body from years ago. After a few hard lessons of not jumping in at full throttle, I now tailor my training schedule around my life.

“Some seek the comfort of their therapist’s office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy.”

Dean Karnazes, ultra-marathon runner

Do it for you. Period.

Winning my first BIG award (It took years to get overall female!)

No matter how cold, snowy, humid, or rainy it is, get out. Don’t kill yourself. Maybe just incorporate a mile. Keep it attainable by doing a mix of running, walking and resting. All is important. Years ago, when I began training for my first 5k, I ran with an former high school running coach who had to pause countless times for me to catch my breath. 

An achievable 5K training schedule–wait–did I mention achievable? Ok, good. Treat your body to success. Forget the golden fitness days of your youth and look realistically. Hows your eating? Do you exercise regularly? Answer honestly, not how you wish you were doing. This honesty with yourself will reduce the risk of injury, stress, and fatigue while boosting your enjoyment of physical activity.

Set Achievable Goals

Remember that you are getting back into running for a reason. A fun 5k with friends? Solo 5k just cuz? Better health? Competition? Hold on to that reason and set achievable goals.

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