So, you took the first step and signed up to run a race. Congratulations! You are one brave stride closer to achieving a significant fitness goal. Now it’s time to cross your shoestrings and dot your training bullet points to set yourself up for the best result possible. Shawn Richardville, Lead Exercise Specialist at the Parkview Health and Fitness Center, has six simple steps you can take to finish your first 5k, 10k, half or full marathon safely and swiftly.
1. Go shoe shopping.
Invest in a quality brand from a store that specializes in running shoes. Experts can assess your gait, and they know how to find the best fit for your foot and stride. Remember:
- The quality of a shoe’s midsole decreases after 350-550 miles.
- You should have about one finger’s width between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
- Your foot expands throughout the day, so shop later.
- Wear the same socks and orthotics you’ll wear running, when shopping.
- As an alternative to cotton socks, try synthetic fibers that wick away moisture.
- If you have a pair of running shoes you like, consider sticking with that brand and model.
- Never run a race in new shoes. They should have at least 50 miles to be considered broken in.
2. Three’s the magic number.
Running every day leads to burnout. Limiting your running to just three days a week, however, prevents injury, keeps you healthy and is a great way to vary the intensity of your training. The first run of the week can be an intense workout, the second an easier workout and the third can be a medium-intensity run. Just remember, you don’t have to run the whole time. The most important thing is to keep moving. As your body builds endurance, you’ll find it easier to run for longer periods of time.
3. Mix it up.
On days you aren’t running, cross training can be very beneficial. Not only does it take redundancy out of your workouts, but it also helps prevent plateaus in strength. You can:
- Try a martial arts class, like kickboxing or karate
- Play basketball, soccer or tennis
- Go for a swim or bike ride
- Take a yoga or Pilates class
4. Be flexible.
Whether you walk, run or cross train, stretching should be part of your regular routine. It keeps your muscles loose, which can enhance your strength and endurance. It can also help prevent muscle aches, pains, cramping and injury. A few things to keep in mind:
- Stretching should cause a mild level of discomfort, but it should not be painful. If it is, you could be overstretching your muscles, which can cause injury.
- Each stretch should be held for about 30 seconds.
- Never bounce a stretch. It’s best to lean into a stretch and hold it.
5. High-quality fuel.
Proper nutrition can keep you healthy and at peak performance. Make sure your meals are rich in nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D and carbohydrates. Quality protein found in lean turkey, chicken or fish can help with muscle recovery, and whole-wheat carbohydrates can help fuel your body.
6. Fill up on fluids.
Proper hydration before, during and after your run can improve your performance. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints and helps transport nutrients for enhanced energy, health and well-being. To stay hydrated:
- Drink 12-22 ounces of water 1-2 hours before you run
- Drink 10 ounces of water 10-20 minutes before you run
- Drink 4-6 ounces of water every 15 minutes while you run
- Drink 16-24 ounces of water for every pound of weight lost after you run
(Bonus: Staying hydrated can also treat heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.)
Remember to find joy in the journey and listen to your body. These steps and a great mindset should get you to the finish line feeling happy, healthy and ready for a whole new challenge.