8 Weeks to Your First 5K.
By Chaim Wizman
If you are like most people, you have probably put on a few pounds over the years. Maybe you find yourself out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs or wheezing when you walk up a hill. You have been thinking about getting back in shape but you have no idea where to start. Gym memberships are expensive and if you don't go regularly, you will have wasted your money like so many others. The best way to get into shape is also the most efficient and economical. You don't need a thing other than a decent pair of shoes and you can do it anywhere in the world. Yes, I am referring to running. Running? "Me, are you kidding. I can't jog for 30 seconds without gasping for air." Not to worry. No matter what shape you are in today, rest assured that you can be a runner in a mere eight weeks. In fact, I am so sure of this that I suggest you register right now for a 5k race that you will run in just about two months. Wait a minute. Shouldn't you start walking before you start running? Absolutely. But dare to inspire yourself with the lofty but achievable goal of completing a race. The beauty of a distance race is that it need not be a competitive experience if you don't want it to be. Every runner who crosses the line receives a certain measure of glory. Even power-walkers a 5-K can re-energize their commitment to staying fit and trim by taking on new challenges and moving on to a whole new level. So, how do you get started?
What's a K, and Why 5?
"5-K" is athlete lingo for a 5-kilometer walk/run. Five kilometers equals 5,000 meters or 3.1 miles, which translates to about 12.5 times around a high school track, or just over three times around Nachal Dolev in RBS or 2.5 times around Rechov Hanarkiss in Givat Sharett. A 5-K is the shortest of the distance races, but it's long enough to be a challenge.
5k Races are primarily community-sponsored events that draw folks who enjoy exercising, challenging themselves, and meeting people. But the biggest appeal of these races is the party atmosphere. There are often pre- and post-walk snacks and drinks, plus T-shirts, awards, and goody bags stuffed with gifts and coupons.
While some walkers and runners compete for first-place honors, most sign up for the fun of it. Medals are handed out just for participating, not only for being the fastest.
Once you decide to register for a 5-K, you'll reap plenty of benefits well before the race day.
Committing to a 5-K can be powerfully motivating because you'll naturally want to do well. And with the 8-week training program presented in this article, you can definitely enhance your performance.
Setting a goal -- namely, to complete a 5-K -- renews your sense of excitement about weight loss and fitness.
Increasing the intensity of your workouts in preparation for race day builds your speed, boosts your strength and endurance, and maximizes weight loss.
Concentrating on technique and training rewards you with a sense of pride, mastery, and accomplishment, all of which give you the confidence to try something new and succeed.
Of course, you mustn't overlook the most important benefit of entering a 5-K: Having fun! You get to spend time in the great outdoors. You meet scores of like-minded people who share your interest in health and fitness.
Go for the Goal
You don’t have to look very far to find an event in the near future to inspire you. The highly successful Annual Bet Shemesh 5k Community Run/Walk takes place on November 6, 2009. And the best part is that many of your friends and neighbors will be training for and participating in this same event.
Note: Anyone with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or other chronic health conditions should consult a doctor before starting this training program.
Priming Your Body
What may come as a surprise to many people, is that virtually anyone who can walk, can, with a little committment, learn to run. The first thing you need to do is assess your current ability to walk a 5-K. As a benchmark, you should be able to walk briskly -- fast enough to work up a light sweat, but not so fast that you're gasping for breath -- for at least 25 minutes. You need to be at this level in order to begin training. If you're not, you need to work up to it.
Remember to spend a few minutes stretching after every warm-up and cool-down. Choose exercises that target your calf and thigh muscles.
If you miss a session here and there, simply pick up where you left off. If you miss a week or more of training, you may have to back-track a week to resume working out at a comfortable level.
Never do speed workouts on consecutive days or on "easy" days, even if you're feeling great. Doing too much too soon or too fast puts you at risk for soreness and injury, and often you don't know that you're overdoing it until it's too late. Remember, you are your only training competitor, and your best time is the one that gets you to the finish line safely and comfortably.
Finally, let your body rule your routine. If you're extremely sore or tired the day after a workout, cut back. Walk only as fast as you can without feeling any kind of muscle or joint pain. If you experience dizziness, chest pain, or sharp pain anywhere in your body, stop your workout and see your doctor.
Your 8-Week Training Program
The program is simple. If you are willing to dedicate a total of forty minutes three times per week, you will be running 5k in just eight weeks. Here's how it works. The forty minute workout time remains the same for all 24 workouts during your eight week training program. Divide your forty minute workout into ten segments of four minutes each which will be divided into alternating portions of walking and jogging. The objective is that as your fitness level improves, you will increase the amount of jogging time while reducing the amount of walking time. Walk briskly for 3.5 minutes and then jog for 30 seconds. Repeat this pattern ten times for 40 minutes total during your three workouts that week. In week 2 change the walk/jog ratio to 3:15 minutes walking and 45 seconds jogging. In weeks 3, shift to 3 minutes walking and 1 minute jogging. In Week 4, walk for 2.5 minutes and then jog for 1.5 minutes. In week 5, walk for 2 minutes and then jog for 2 minutes. In week 6, walk for 1.5 minutes and jog for 2.5 minutes. In week 7, walk for 1 minute and jog for three minutes. In week 8, you jog for 3.5 minutes, followed by a 30 second walking break. That's it. You are now ready for your first 5k. By including short walking breaks throughout, you will be able to go far longer than you would if you were just running. One day a week, preferably the one following your hardest workout, is for resting. Adequate rest reduces your risk of injury, which would likely disrupt your training. If you want, you can use up to three of your days off for activities other than jogging/walking, such as bicycling and swimming.
Every week, your workouts get a bit more jogging intensive as your strength, and endurance improve. Don't worry about speed at this point. Once you have developed a proper endurance base, increased speed will come naturally. Rest for the two days prior to the race so that you're feeling fresh and strong for the big event.
Get Ready, Get Set... Go!
You've followed the training program religiously, and you are pumped for race day. In the final hours of preparation, read the following tips collected from some walk/run veterans. Their advice can help calm pre-race jitters and ensure that your 5-K experience is a good one.
Arrive early. This gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land, especially if you're new to the course. It also gives you time to warm up, which can help soothe pre-race nerves.
Check in. Find out where to pick up your race number (or to register if you haven't done so already). Pin the number below your chest and leave the bottom flap loose. Someone will tear off that strip as you go through the finish-line chute.
Drink plenty of water. Some experts recommend drinking 12 oz. of water an hour before the race. That's a great idea, but be sure to allow time for a bathroom stop.
Warm up. Walk for at least 10 minutes prior to the start of the race. A cold start could leave your calves cramping.
Set your own race pace. Relax and hang back, away from the front-line competitors. And do not be afraid to smile and chat with others along the way if you feel like it.
Get your results. After the race, stay for the awards ceremony and cheer your fellow athletes. Find out your time, no matter where you finished. You'll want to compare it with your 5-K time from the start of your training program.
Enjoy the post-race revelry. Stick around and mingle. Who knows? You may meet some training buddies for your next 5-K. See you all there.