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How to Prepare for a 5K Run

Before we talk about the simple things you can do to prepare for your first 5K, let’s talk about the benefits of running and walking. Both are fantastic ways to maintain good health while also burning fat. When running, the body uses between 500-700 calories an hour which means you can burn more than 250 calories in less time than it takes to watch an episode of your favorite sitcom.  Aerobic exercises are the best choice for lowering blood pressure, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. You can try brisk walking, swimming, cycling, or dancing — anything that gets your heart rate up. The AHA recommends 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, plus two days of strength training.

Since 5Ks are less physically intense than a half or full marathon, runners of all skill levels are able to participate which helps create a great community atmosphere. Below are a couple of tips to help prepare for your first 5K run.

Man dressed in running gear trekking across a hill path with a cloud-covered mountain range in the background.

Know your health limits

Before deciding to compete in a 5K race, understand your personal fitness level. If you have not exercised in a while or have been dealing with health issues, be sure to talk to your doctor and get approval to run a 5K first. A good gauge in determining if you should attempt a 5K is whether or not you can comfortably walk or jog for 30 minutes without stopping. If you can’t, you might want to consider training for the 5K at least six weeks in advance. Walking or running for at least 30 minutes three times a week before the race will help prepare your body for the event and prevent injury.

Find a running or walking buddy

Competing in a 5K event can be so rewarding especially if you are running with a friend. The day of the race can be a little nerve-wracking if you are surrounded by people who take running more seriously than you do. It is important to find someone within your skill level of running so you have the support you need in meeting that end goal: finishing the race. A trusted running partner will keep you motivated before, during and after the race. Knowing someone is alongside you going through the same challenges you are can be comforting when trying something new.

Get a good pair of running shoes

Running in shoes that fit poorly is the number one cause of running injuries. Try to find a store that specializes in running or a sporting goods store that has an experienced runner on staff. A running shoe expert can evaluate the size and shape of your foot and help you choose the right pair of shoes. They take into consideration your personal running style, including your gait and stride, when helping you choose the best fit. No matter what shoes you choose, just make sure they are comfortable, well-cushioned and provide ankle support.

Compete against yourself

All types of runners come out for a 5K event ranging from the casual neighborhood jogger to the lifelong marathon runner. Since the event is an actual race, you will find that friendly competition might motivate the more active runners to push themselves beyond their normal running limits. If you are a beginner, try not to get swept up into other runners’ personal goals. Before the race, determine a pace you are comfortable with and stick with it. If you have been training prior to the event, you will have a pretty good idea on the upper limit of your running speed. Try to not push yourself beyond that limit by matching another runner’s pace. Aim to beat your own personal best when running, not anyone else’s.

Be prepared on race day

The night before the race, be sure to get enough sleep and have your gear packed and ready to go so you are not scrambling the morning of. Eat breakfast at least 30 minutes before the race starts with some carbs like toast, banana or a bagel avoiding fats or too much protein. Give yourself enough time to find parking at the event and use the bathroom before the race. About 15 minutes before the race starts, warm up with a five to ten-minute jog back and forth near the starting line. Be sure to hydrate at the water stops during the race and have a water bottle ready for you at the finish line.

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